Riverside at Academy 2: Live Review
Words and Photos: Anthony Firmin
Poland and prog are not usually associated together, especially not two bands of that genre sharing the same billing but that is precisely what we have at Academy 2 today. And this being an evening that gives concert goers plenty of choices too – fellow proggers King Crimson are at the Bridgewater, a death-metal festival has enveloped Rebellion Bar, and Slayer are in town on their farewell tour. It is also an evening that ManchesterRocks were planning to hold a Progathon on, that is until this gig was announced. Consequently it is heart-warming that so many have chosen to be here this evening, with many arriving early to see the openers.
Those openers are prog-metal merchants Mechanism who this year have released their second album Entering The Invisible Light. Their set is tight with lots of heavy riffs with plenty of progressive dynamism as you would expect; Authority As Truth and The Grand Confusion (Pt 1 and 2) both from the new album are both engaging and impressive. The band is steadily growing in popularity and they are very well received, impressing some enough to buy their merch during the interval, they are definitely worth checking out.
Riverside are riding high following the release of Wasteland, their first studio album since the death of Piotr Grudziński two years ago, and now they are on the road to promote it and it makes up half of the songs performed. Even so, there there is a dark and heavy feel to this evening, not just the music but the crowd too, as the bands opening salvo of Acid Rain, Vale Of Tears and Lament pave the way, showing that they will not rest on their laurels.
Guardian Angel which is performed beautifully, the aesthetics of which are lost due to numerous people chattering away… why? Why come to a gig if you are going to stand at the bar and talk incessantly all the way though the show?
The overall sound is clean but not overloud, the tones and sounds come through perfectly but there is a loss of soul or feel as a consequence. The lighting is spectacular and works perfectly with the music. Interestingly keyboardist Michał Łapaj also uses a Theremin which is used to great effect by adding textures to the music. Intriguingly it is also the third time in a month that I have seen bands use them.
During The Struggle For Survival singer Mariusz Duda engages with the audience baying them into a not very prog sing-a-long, but this crowd is incalcitrant. They seem suppressed, like they are undergoing an exorcism of enjoyment. Cheers for songs are initially loud but quickly fade; like enthusiasm for Theresa May’s Brexit plans, everyone seems muted. Odd.
Last song of the set is Wasteland, my least favourite on the album, their diversion into spaghetti western film music sits uncomfortably. The encore is, however, a real crowd pleaser – the piano led The Night Before is beautiful and O2 Panic Room seduces with it’s brave funkiness and yet the crowd still needs to goaded into life. The final song River Down Below, dedicated to Piotr Grudziński, is stunning and the crowd finally gives the band some well deserved recognition – what took them so long?
Both Mechanism and Riverside deliver outstanding performances this evening but Manchester, you disappoint, what is wrong with you?