So let’s face the elephant in the room straight away.
This is always going to be emotional on so many levels and affecting people to different degrees. The album was recorded in Dutch Club 013, Tilburg, in the autumn of 2015 and features Piotr Grudzinski who is sadly no longer with us. Not a subject I intend to dwell on and this should be seen as a glorious celebration of the man’s talent at the top of his game.
Every ten years Riverside add an exclusive release to their discography, and ‘Lost ‘n’ Found: Live in Tilburg’, is the latest. The double CD with graphics designed by Travis Smith was to be available only at this year’s shows on the “Towards the Blue Horizon Tour”. This raised an amount of consternation and unrest amongst those who would not be able to attend, no doubt fuelled further by enhanced emotions due to the sad loss of Piotr.
I was lucky enough to attend the concert at The Marble Factory in Bristol on May 20th, last Saturday in fact, and a copy was bought for me which has enabled me to write this review.
Closing the door on the above and opening the one saying ‘Backstage Only’ I stride down the corridor toward the stage where all the action is to take place on these discs. It would be the obvious thing to do, going through the tracks individually and commenting on them. But those who love Riverside’s music don’t need telling how good the songs are, or to be advised on the quality excellent musicianship of the individuals.
Better to look at this as a ‘Live’ experience. So what separates a poor live band from a great one and a quality ‘Live’ album from a dismal disc that ends up on your coffee table as a coaster? Every individual may differ in their opinion, but there are certain things that I like/dislike on ‘Live’ recordings.
It is a feeling, the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck with the electrical charge sparked between the band and their audience. It takes you back to that night if you were there, if not it transports you through the speakers to plant you, front row amidst the heaving throng of swaying bodies, as one in unison with the music pumping from the speakers.
A quality sound is imperative, too muddy or overproduced and it will be ruined. A fine line and delicately balanced it’s not easy to achieve the right mix and excellence whilst retaining the ‘Live’ atmosphere. The one that puts a smile on your face as you sit listening, a slave before your master, the sound system. The first applause introduces the arrival of the band on stage and the notes of the introductory track kick in, you close your eyes and raise your arms in supplication to the gods of your living room.
Your head nods and you mouth the lyrics to yourself, by now blissfully unaware that no one else is in the room (except the pets) and if the magic is taking a hold, then neither are you.
This brings me to another possible pitfall, the applause and running dialogue betwixt band and discerning crowd, or should I say, distinct lack of it on some so called ‘Live’ recordings. It saps the very energy from the atmosphere like a music hating succubus. The vampire intent on draining every last bloody drop of musical theatre from the sound. It has always puzzled me the urge to eradicate any and all components that allow a ‘Live’ recording to breathe naturally, nurturing the adoration and adulation blossoming from the performers and watchers alike.
It is the lifeblood which links the individual tracks, the pitfalls, dropped notes and reciprocal banter, in stilted attempts at the local dialect causing a warm felt humour. The band tune and retune whilst taking the opportunity to introduce the individual musicians, allowing you brief respite to settle back in your armchair whilst staying connected, before unleashing the next eagerly anticipated adrenaline injection of melody through the speakers.
By now the cat and dog have left the room, convinced you have lost a grip on reality and you don’t even notice the twitch of a whisker. You have no need to rise from your seat as the multi-disc player slides into the second CD, carrying you away on waves of euphoria, the bliss of release from day to day strife falling away as time slips by without a care in the world. All that matters is the here (or there) and now. Nothing can pull you from the crowd, eject you from your respectful reveries as your mind applauds an imaginary stage.
All too soon they reach the final song then leave the stage, the ecstatic crowd baying for more, clapping, stamping cheering and whistling. You are participating in the temporary auditorium created among the sofa and coffee table, with the closed curtains across the bay window shutting out the light, enhancing the illusion.
You, along with the attendant throng will the band to return for just a little while, play some more, don’t let go, not yet. Wetted appetites are slated as the members wander casually back into view, towels caressing well earned perspiration from weary but satisfied brows, in the knowledge that the final line is in sight and they will cross to the winner’s enclosure.
Every last drop of remaining emotion is wrung from the instruments, vocals accompanied by audience participated backing voices, from dry throats tortured to burning point by the smoke machines. Louder they get, to near hysteria levels, the ultimate note is struck and there is the briefest of silent pauses before realisation dawns that the band have played their last. Tumultuous waves of sound from suffering air-pipes erupt in fervent appreciation for the unforgettable evening that has been bestowed upon the dedicated listener. The band leave the stage throwing drumsticks and plectrums to the hands reaching out and they’re gone.
Animated and enthused the multitude filter into the cold night air, steam rising from the heated bodies, wisps fading like the the lights, into the night.
It’s done and you rise flicking on the light switch to bathe the room in a warm glow, time to make a cup of tea and let the pets out into the garden. But don’t be too despondent as you can relive the event when and as often as you like.
‘But he’s hardly mentioned Riverside‘, I hear you cry.
Look again dear reader, they are there in every good word, every sentence to raise plaudits, every vowel, noun and space, for this is Riverside ‘Live’ in Tilburg. They have realised the dream and created moments to remember, scenes that will live forever in the mind. If you want a true ‘Live’ album then look no further, for the fan a must buy, for those interested a great introduction to one of the foremost modern bands on the scene.
Out of the darkness comes light and Riverside are bathed in it. Catch them on tour, you never know, you might even be on the next ‘Live’ release.
Available exclusively from each date on Riverside’s ‘Towards The Blue Horizon’ tour.