The last time Ride toured Australia, Paul Keating was prime minister, Romper Stomper had just been released at the cinema and Manchester United won the inaugural Premier League title. The four lads from Oxford emerged from Britain’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s shoegaze movement and were soon signed to Alan McGee’s famed indie label, Creation Records.
However, Ride were always reluctant to hang their hat on the shoegaze tag and changed musical direction with the 1994 album Carnival of Light, opting for a more classic rock sound. They lost the fans, the adoration of the music press and, before long, themselves, when chief songwriters Andy Bell and Mark Gardener had a collision of egos, leading to a split in 1996.
But you can’t keep a good band down, and in 2014 the stars realigned. Reunited, they released the acclaimed comeback long player, Weather Diaries in 2017. This year, Ride are back in Australia touring their latest album, This Is Not a Safe Place.
“A measured start builds to an epic conclusion.”
Playing The Forum, Melbourne’s best live venue, the four-piece embark on a shrewdly curated setlist that bloods the new and rewards with the old in equal measure to keep the crowd interest keen. Four from This Is Not a Safe Place, three from Weather Diaries, and the remainder lifted from Nowhere (1990); the brilliant Going Blank Again (1992) and even a song from the universally panned Tarantula (1996), Black Nite Crash: “We haven’t played that one in a while,” Gardener tells the audience.
Early issues with the mix are quickly overcome and the band, following a somnolent start, warm to the occasion as each track unfolds. When they drop into Twisterella, the pounding rhythm section of bassist Steve Queralt and Laurence Colbert (who delivers a searing performance on drums) kicks into top gear, and the Melbourne crowd is finally defibrillated into motion.
With the band energy high, Gardener’s voice on point, and the back catalogue classics rapturously received like sonic prodigal sons, the only element that slightly dampens the onstage enthusiasm is Ride’s blundering guitar tech, who seems to spend as much time in front of the audience as the players. At one point, in a true Frank Spencer-esque moment, he even forgets to give Gardener his instrument, leading the guitarist to ask over the mic, “Can I have a guitar please?
Ride is the band that every budding indie guitarist wanted to be in growing up. Admired by fans and fellow musicians alike, the performance at The Forum reveals why their music – and indeed musicianship – has endured over the past 30 years. When they reach the encore and the familiar Hammond loop that begins Leave Them All Behind fills the room, satisfied nods all around signal the start of seven minutes of sonorous nirvana, the monumental wall of sound deafening ears.
With temporary tinnitus present long into the drive home, it leaves us to ponder that sometimes in music history, band reconciliation goes beyond the urge to reminisce. Ride’s two latest albums prove that the magic is still present – this resurrection should be celebrated.