On a dark and stormy night, legendary English shoe-gaze artists Ride blasted Vancouver’s ear drums at the intimate and infamous Commodore Ballroom. Renowned for their spiralling feedback, luscious vocal harmonies, sharp drums and hypnotic bass, Ride formed in 1988 Oxford England. Ride enjoyed considerable popularity in the early 90s; their highly characterized sonic atmosphere, matched only perhaps by My Bloody Valentine, makes the band one of the grandfather acts of the shoe-gaze genre, a tradition that celebrates shocking canvases of guitar noise and euphoric crescendos. Ride’s body of work, particularly from their early EPs and first two albums have an immense wake in terms of critical influence.
Playing support for the evening were Vancouver psych rockers Strange Things, a capable foursome that play a tantalizing brand of garage rock. With alluring bass lines, versatile drums and vivid guitar tones supported by hollow-body instruments, Strange Things recall 60’s style charm thickened with an earthier North-West Coast flavour. With a similar style of extended, sweet, arching vocals to the night’s head-line act, the sounds of Strange Things appropriately appetizing the audience for Ride’s upcoming volume.
The dark stage, dimly lit with blue, hung quietly, like a calm before an impending storm. Blistering into a spacey sonic tapestry, Ride instantly demonstrated their professional demeanour with their impeccable musical output. Launching into the blissful, auditory carnage of “Leave Them All Behind,” as guitarists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell wove delicate layers of glittering guitar over the hard-hitting drums of Lawrence Colbert and Steve Queralt’s hypnotic bass. By the end of this first song, a delicious 8 minute jaunt, the mood was perfectly set; the superb acoustics of the Commodore Ballroom provided an ideal sonic altar for Ride’s spacey volume.
Playing with fine form, Ride dazzled eardrums with enduring favourites like “Seagull” from their 1990 seminal work Nowhere. Crashing through sweeping arches and crests, Ride retain a passionate, romantic edge exemplifying the sound of a youthful, energized early ‘90s England. Cinematic and nostalgia, the music of Ride, though powerful, is well suited for day-dreamers. Delicate guitar work chimed with effectiveness under the formidable rhythm section and sonic effects.
Performing highlights of their extensive musical catalogues, Ride’s setlist included their most celebrated songs. “Vapour Trail” invoked an appreciative clatter of applause as washing guitars and snapping snare drum drifted underfoot the clear, sweat vocal harmonies; with significant powers of nostalgia, the tune is a stunning example of excellent song-writing, sonic experimentation embodying the spirit of it’s creative era. The band’s encore allowed an opportunity to turn up the sound.
After a couple decades of musical professorship, the musical ability of the group is especially apparent; many bands play with extensive volume but few wield heavy sonic levels with as much precision and skill. With rolling, thunderous sounds, the music of Ride flows with spirit, imagination and charm. Ride on.