Live Review – At The Barrier

Riverside, Klone (acoustic) – The Ritz, Manchester – 21 May 2024

Strangely, just about a year since we last met on the Riverside in Manchester at Academy 2, they’re returning to The Ritz to help wrap up a busy ID.Entity album tour. It’s the last date, except for a European gig in June, so there’s an element of Second Life (rather than Second Life) syndrome. The band, as always, especially keyboard player Michal Lapaj, is full of life.

Many are vociferous when asked if they are back for a second dose, while “ah, the same” notes Mariusz as he checks who’s here for their first Riverside show. The latter is encouraging and with a wide demographic, we’re not just surrounded by the usual faces that populate progressive tours in and around the city.

Resisting the temptation to play too much with the set we saw last year, the perfect opener is reinstated halfway through the set. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat) reappears at The Ritz, (“one I didn’t play last time“) recalled their concert here in 2015, when those searing yet melodic guitar lines were the domain of the late Piotr Grudzinski and now sit in the custody of Maciej Meller. He delivers them masterfully and the goosebumps must prickle around the place.

It’s a sign of how Riverside’s identity is in constant flux; the way he changes not only the setlist, but also the way he plays the songs. “We don’t just play album versions”, says Mariusz Duda as he pays attention to listen for the little easter eggs in some of the songs where they will work into a line from another song. “There will be a test later, or you can just shout – like that guy...” and right on cue, the audience does just that when Meller drops some of The Caterpillar & The Barbed Wire into the middle of Post Truth. The identity they’ve explored over the last eighteen months – their dissociation with Dream Theaters from the Prog Metal world – is pretty much as Mariusz puts it, “time to get out.” The sign of the brassy keyboard stabs at Big Tech Brother (which kicks off in power trio mode before Duda and Meller go Metal and mount the drum lift) and poppy Friend Or Foe show they won’t be going down the progressive line.

Meanwhile, back at the beginning, #Addicted and Peter Hook’s trebly bass lines remain the opening gambit, but combined with the delights of the O2 Panic Room (and the iconic ‘my sweet shelter” signature) and its partner in other bassline tricks, Landmine Blast, a short sharp intro that worked well, isn’t broken and in need of repair. And while the latter album provides the bulk of the set, they rely heavily on Anno Domini High Definition for Left Out and Egoist Hedonist, which are undeniably big players in the progressive side of their catalog. The gusto with which the audience becomes a part of the first song, which weaves Floyd/Grateful Dead jams into a ten-minute-plus arrangement, is goosebump-worthy, while the bean-filled Lapaj adds flourishes both rough and danceable.

Along with the contrast between new and old, the New Wave vibe and touches of Self Awareness contrasts sharply with Conceiving You. Almost in the same order of ideas in which they ended the Wasteland shows in 2019 with the superb River Down Below, the latter hardly leaves us in a melancholic but reflective breath. A thought that almost ten years on from that aforementioned appearance at the same venue, how Riverside might do their fair share of changing the goalposts, but they rightfully belong as innovators and continue to deliver a thrilling live experience .

Early arrivals had the bonus of a band we supported big. Klone have appeared regularly in our pages – from Le Grand Voyage to Alive and their latest album Meanwhale, so their appearance in acoustic form was a real bonus. Remember the rule – always see the backing tape!

Also having a full hour, the French quintet charged on a line of stools and gave a masterclass in how the transition to the low key arrangement works. Perhaps at a similar end to the tour and responding to a hugely enthusiastic audience, they seemed to wallow in the experience completely. Not that the lower key arrangements don’t lack the kind of epic intensity that the all-electric versions would enjoy. The two guitars, led by sonic drumbeats on a single tom and some wide cymbals for washes, plus Yann Ligner’s occasional forays into loud ceiling-going growls ensured this wasn’t just a dressed-up skeleton of a set.

The opportunity to delve into the back catalog in a set reserved for Sealed and Yonder from the Le Grand Voyage album saw Klone highlight some of the more delicate and subtle moments of a legacy that stretches back two decades. That being said, we were also treated to a very recognizable and acclaimed cover of Soundgarden’s Black Old Sun, as well as some new tracks. Sitting very comfortably in the set, The Unseen in particular combined floyd-esque moods, before breaking into a powerful climax.

No wonder the band seemed delighted by the response, throwing out their Metal horns and unable to resist standing up at opportune moments when the temptation to adapt their heavier moments to the acoustic format was too much to resist. Some could justifiably argue that Klone is strongest in this configuration, but their disconnected setup is certainly a quality alternative to the fully connected version.

Riverside online: website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Clones online: Kscope website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Instagram

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