As the sun starts to descend on a sunny Manchester shards of light pierce through the windows of the Royal Albert Hall and illuminate the grand gothic interior of this beautiful venue, and it seems only fitting that a gig of this magnitude is held in such biblical surroundings, for tonight is the night that Mark Gardener declared that the Ride gospel will be delivered.
Any trepidation of tonight’s concert has long since passed. Any nerves that this could be the night that the Ride legacy is shattered have been calmed. The previous months gig and festival appearances have answered any questions regarding tensions, whether or not the connection is still there, whether the magic is still alive. The buzz about these three UK gigs has snowballed into a frenzy that I don’t think anyone anticipated. Stories and memories being shared via social media since last year have extended into the venue as people around me, strangers to one another exchange song hopes, gig memories and individual journeys that have taken them from their teens to this very day. Never have I heard the phrase “dream come true” uttered by so many in such a short space of time.
I am just the wrong side of 35 to appreciate Ride in their early days. Starting at Carnival Of Light I was 15 years old and it was 1994. The infamous break down of the band was imminent as I worked my way backwards through their musical heritage. Nowhere was the album that changed the way I listened to music. In an age where good albums were being spat out at a staggering rate, Ride were an absolute game changer.
Standing in the Albert Hall on Saturday evening I listen to stories of gigs past, and as the lights dim the shuddering realisation that this is actually about to happen hits home. The roar from the crowd is like a riotous swell that seems to lift every single person off the floor.
Fully prepared for LTAB to close the show, it’s a joyous surprise when the intro kicks in and hands are held aloft. They rattle through song after song with the force and momentum of a steam train. Slowing the pace every now and again for the likes of Polar Bear, Vapour Trail and the sneaky inclusion of Natural Grace the band swing effortlessly from the beautifully sublime to full throttle on tracks such as Black Nite Crash, Dreams Burn Down and Seagull. Had you been asleep for the last two decades you’d struggle to notice that this band were just stepping back from a 20 year hiatus.
They have stepped on the stage with all the vigour and class of the band they were 20 years ago. Effortlessly brilliant in a way that is so understated it is impossible not to have love and respect for each of these guys in equal measure. There’s no underlying need to claw back fame. No petulant last ditch attempt to showboat ego’s. Although the motivation matters not this was nearly 2 hours of pure music and love.
As the sets hurtles towards its climax it is ironic that the absolute wrecking ball that is Drive Blind is the song that see’s the audience (at least where I am stood) stunned still. Having just witnessed the angelic voice of Mark Gardener against a back drop of perfectly executed music with Vapour Trail, the noise kicks in. Loz beasts his cymbals like a man possessed, Andy plays until his fingers bleed and THIS is Ride. This is the noise that Loz so eloquently describes. Completely lost are band and fans alike as the 4 minute cacophony fills the ears of every person watching. No other band can do this, this is shoegaze at its absolute earth shattering finest.
The night draws to a close with Mouse Trap and Chelsea Girl and as the band make an understated exit from the stage they are blissfully unaware of what they have just done. For some they have just opened people’s ears to a whole new world of music, but for others like me they have just filled in the final chapter of a 20 year long journey.
As the lights go up I gather myself and wipe away a tear, I look around at the crowd. I am hugged by three different men who I don’t know and who I have never met. Each one jubilantly over-awed with what they have just witnessed as they bear hug anyone who will reciprocate. I see another man stood with his hands on his head simply muttering to himself “what the fuck just happened!?” It’s a good couple of minutes before he musters up the gumption to put one foot in front of another and leave. The funnelling of fans exiting from one tiny door at the rear of the venue gives me time to stand and to reflect. To absorb what I have just witnessed.
So I shall say it again. Mark Gardener, Andy Bell, Loz Colbert and Steve Queralt; On behalf of myself and every other sentient being at Manchester Albert Hall on Saturday 23rd May, thank you, thank you, thank you! Absolutely wonderful. Thankyou!