Riverside / An Evolving Sound Captivates At SWX Bristol

It’s been a long few years for Riverside and their fan base. Last year’s I.D. Entity saw the Poles move further away from their early sound, something that maybe some long-term fans of the band long for a return to if the large gaps in the venue are anything to go by. If punters are voting with their feet, then one must question if it’s the cost of living, poor timing of a Monday night show, or something a bit deeper. 

Riverside

SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024

Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings

Regardless of the reasons, the venue that was close to full when Riverside last played in Bristol in 2019 is no more than 60% capacity as the band begin their enthralling and captivating set. 

Early in the set, singer, bassist, and frontman Mariusz Duda makes it clear that this is a band who are shifting their identity. Their latest album, now nearly 18 months old, he laughs, focuses on changes not only in technology and society but within Riverside, the band. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

It’s the latest stage in a long healing process, which appears to be almost completed. They are way further along the healing road than in 2017 when their show at the nearby Marble Factory was as depressing and mournful a show as I’ve ever attended. The band has moved on, cleansed, and cleaned from the shroud of grief that hung over them for aeons after the tragic passing of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski.

It’s a heroic entrance. 

There’s an air of anticipation around this band that isn’t always replicated with others of their genre. Ah, yes, the genre debate. We will get to that in a bit. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

First comes keyboardist and backing vocalist Michal Lapaj. Unassumingly strolling across the stage, the uninformed observer may have mistaken him for crew in his casual black t-shirt and jeans. That’s not the case moments later as he is animated, shifting around his multi-keyboard setup and smiling at those in the front row. 

Possibly Prog’s happiest keyboardist? 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

He is followed by drummer Piotr Kozieradski, the quiet engine room of the band, who spends most of the show hidden behind his drumkit way at the back of the stage but whose driving flourishes and flicks are the dynamo that powers the Riverside machine. 

Now established in the band, Maciej Meller is one fluid guitarist. Whether it be hammering out some of the heavier riffs or playing the deliciously delicate segments that drift in and out of their set, he is locked in for the entire performance. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Of course, most eyes focus on the band’s enigmatic and thoughtful frontman. Not only has Duda one of the most melodic and warming voices in rock, but he is one hell of a bassist, flipping from jazz breakdowns to funk-ridden passages through to driving hard rock with minimal effort. 

He later explains that Riverside don’t always replicate their music live as it is recorded, and whilst this isn’t quite the flamboyance of Freddie Mercury and Queen (who once famously said that a Queen show was a theatrical event), most songs played tonight have some additions, amendments, and extensions. 

At one point tonight, as if to prove a point, we even get a bit of Riders On The Storm added. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Setlist wise, it’s focused on the songs from the latest album, with over half the set drawn from I.D Entity. It’s the pulsing #Addicted, from the band’s often referred “breakthrough album” Love Fear And The Time Machine, that sets the tempo before a dip back in time with 02 Panic Room from Rapid Eye Movement delights the older fans. 

There’s an elongated pause as the band freezes as part of the song. It looks like they aren’t ever coming back as they stand stock still for what feels like ages before Duda talks about the ‘new’ album and its impact before we are treated to Landmine Blast.

The band are tight and cohesive, and most importantly, enjoying themselves. There are smiles between the band members, and even the stone-faced Kozieradski appears to beam at least twice. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

The dark Big Tech Brother comes complete with narrated introduction, an expansive yet tight song that hits hard. A slightly unusual speech about the band’s changing style follows, and one is wondering if something has got under Duda’s skin a little. He refers to Dream Theater, stating that the genres that Riverside have been lumped in with, Progressive Metal, progressive rock, etc., don’t always make sense. 

For a band whose sound has always been more Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief, it’s a bit confusing. But I get where he’s coming from, and despite the flourishes throughout the set that reference King Crimson and Marillion more than the US giants, it’s likely that this was a response to some of the critical comments about the latest release. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

The rest of the evening races by, if you can call eleven songs in an hour and 40 minutes ‘racing’. The extensive workout on The Place Where I Belong and Ego Hedonist allows you to stand back and appreciate the sheer quality of what is in front of you. 

No massive stage show, but subtle and impressive lighting ensures that the songs resonate with the audience. 

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Friend Or Foe, possibly one of the most accessible songs the band has ever written, eases them to the end of the main set before returning for an encore of Self-Aware and final audience participation (and silent scream) of Conceiving You closes the evening. 

At times, you find yourself holding your breath, such is the musicianship on display. But it’s the revised approach, the defiance and yes, happiness that Riverside now demonstrates which is most pleasing on another great night in their history.

Riverside - SWX, Bristol - 20 May 2024
Riverside – SWX, Bristol – 20 May 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings/MetalTalk

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News