Riverside – Live at Vinyl, Atlanta

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After Steven Wilson, Renaissance, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) in a little over a week, my concert spree continued with Riverside.  Admittedly, this was a “I know my son would like to see them, and I might like them too” trip.  The price ($15) was right, but it was a work night and the venue was, well, non-smoking, anyway.  Still, it’s yet another progressive rock band, one that I had heard good things about and whose latest CD I had listened to once on Spotify while distracted with other things.

Arriving, I knew I was in the right place.  The crowd could be defined as a bunch of middle aged guys wearing black T-shirts.  Rush. King Crimson.  Porcupine Tree.  Dream Theater. Marillion.  Prog-rockers, all.  My son noted a Leprosy (“Brutal Death Metal” genre, which I didn’t know existed) shirt, and that all fits together.  To be fair, a surprising number brought dates.  Who knew?

First up was Jolly.  For an opening act, they were unique in that they had far more merchandise for sale than the headliner, and with a decent eye for graphic design even.  I’d have to imagine that the name came from lead singer Anandale’s passing resemblance to Capt. Jack Sparrow > Jolly Roger > Jolly. 

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In any case, they had knowledgeable and appreciative fans front and center.  Jolly played a varied set stylistically, and are difficult to categorize as they can move towards metal and follow it up with a syrupy something.  No, not like ABBA, but still rock with a much more melodic touch.  They didn’t make me a fan, per se, but I’ll check out some of their recorded work.  Of note, this New York band went with Riverside to the Braves game the evening before and joked about the Tomahawk Chop.

Vinyl, as a venue, is challenged.  It seems an afterthought use of space, built into the much more agreeable Center Stage building.  The stage area is small in width, with audience areas compact up front before expanding to the sides further back.  The lights are positioned behind and in front of the band it what might be called “in-your-face” position.  They change colors, but that is about all that can be said for them.  The sound is okay, and was actually better than my last two trips there.  And, they do manage a good bar. 

But it’s an awkward venue.  And, in my state of naivety, it’s a curious choice for a band that certainly has a large following in Europe, and, I think, a good one here as well.  I had expected a bigger crowd.  Maybe it was a weeknight.  Maybe it was college students studying for finals.  But for size, Vinyl was the correct choice. 

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Riverside is a Polish band, one who lead singer Mariusz Duda joked in self-deprecating mode, has been coined to be the Polish version of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, and now Deep Purple.  Funny stuff, but the comparisons are out there. 

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It took two songs to get the feel of the band, both from their latest CD.  Somewhere in the third song, I was “all in.” 

After the precise, controlled feel of the Steven Wilson concert and the disinterested presentation by BRMC show, it became apparent that this band wanted to connect with the audience and were surprised to find that the audience wanted to connect in return.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to a show where that has happened.  There’s usually a lot of posturing by performers accompanied by fanatic enthusiasm for basically what is expected.

This was so much more.

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And the size of the venue certainly helped.

But so does great music.  I can’t point to a specific song, but based on looks, the lead guitarist, Piotr Grudzinski, might be expected to play metal throughout.  He can certainly do that, but he plays many styles, and he feels what he’s playing. 

The keyboards added great vibe and color, and even had the opportunity to be heard soloing from time to time.  The sound was good enough that they didn’t get edged out by the other instruments, as sometimes happens.  The drumming pounded and enhanced, full of confidence and taste.  

Bassist/singer Duda ruled the night, though, as the stage focal point, with his perfectly suited voice, and interactions with the audience.  When the engagement is such that you can pull in an altered version of the Tomahawk Chop “Ohs” for an audience sing along in a progressive rock song... yeah, it works.  In short, for a band that’s often compared to others, they bled authenticity.  This is really a great band.

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So, some hours later, I walked away with an autographed CD and the first tour T-shirt (black, of course) I’ve purchased in quite a while.  At which point my son observes that the band had last played at a bar in Isle of Palms, SC (located just outside of Charleston).  I’ve been there.  What the huntitled-1-8ell is the promoter thinking?  Charleston is steeped in the doily crowd, elitists who attend readings, plays and operas.  To put a European progressive rock band with a metal edge there?  Really?

I asked the guitarist about it, who basically agreed it was a pretty place but no one came out. 

And so it made sense, the band and the audience coming together in Atlanta. During the show, we learned that this was the band’s first U.S. headlining tour (otherwise here for festival appearances), and Duda had mentioned that it seemed like they were starting their career over again.   A beach gig will do that. 

I hope that they return.

Set List:

New Generation Slave
The Depth of Self Delusion
Feel Like Falling
Driven to Destruction
Living in the Past
We Get Used to Us
Egoist Hedonist
Panic Room
Escalator Shrine

Encore:

Left Out
Conceiving You
Celebrity Touch

5 of 5 STARS

 

 

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