Shoegaze legends Ride aren’t known as an acoustic band. Their huge, melodic noise rides waves of ethereal vocals and guitars. They did (and still) do it well, and that was the reason people got into them in the first place. It may seem strange for a band to want to do this. Yet, like Nirvana, who helped pave the way for stripping things back via their legendary MTV Unplugged sessions of the early 90s, it is perhaps surprising how effective it can be. Especially if it’s in the right setting.
Which it was for Ride. St. George’s Church represented just the second ever time that Ride had performed a full band acoustic set. Kicking off a short acoustic tour in celebration of 30 years since forming, there may have been a few 50-plus members of the audience all too glad to have a seat. However, tonight’s show was also a reminder that behind the huge amplification of their recorded songs, there are some proper tunes in there too, deserving of an acoustic outing, where the voices and harmonies can cut through a little more. As on opener ‘Tongue Tied’, a rare outing for this typically blissful song sung by Andy Bell, before Mark Gardener takes the lead for ‘Lannoy Point’, the innate rhythmic hypnotism coming through, as the band harmonising well.
It’s a long set, comprising 19 songs, culled from their relatively small back catalogue of five albums and a few EPs. With founder members Loz Colbert and Steve Queralt dexterously providing the rhythmic backbone, on drums and acoustic bass, respectively. This is. for all intents and purposes. a semi-acoustic performance that showcased the fact that beyond the rhythmic shoegaze and dream-pop sounds they are best known for, they also dipped their toes effectively into the waters of psychedelia and garage. All done with a topping of pop nous that enabled them to bother the charts back in the day, with songs such as the feel-good jangly pop of ‘Twisterella’, and tonight’s finale, the epic, keyboard-infused and driving bass groove of ‘Leave Them All Behind’ (the band’s “fifth member”, and sound-man, plays the keys from front-of-house on this one). It’s a song that is a reminder of the influence of The Stone Roses, one of four bands they namecheck tonight as being pivotal to the Ride sound, in their early gig experiences at Oxford Poly, along with My Bloody Valentine, Spaceman 3, and House of Love; whose Brighton-based guitarist Terry Bickers performs here tonight in support, with his musical partner Pete Fij, earning a standing ovation at the end.
They are not resting on their laurels, as they perform some tracks from last year’s comeback album Weather Diaries, and their subsequent EP, Tomorrow’s Shore, as well as a new number, ‘Shadows Beyond the Sun’, all displaying their continuing knack for making discerning music, Bell’s guitar playing providing the colour and textures, over which the band’s propulsive rhythms fill the church with both a spectral other-worldliness, and hypnotising calm.
They tried to prime us by claiming this was going to be shambolic, but Ride ended being very much together in such an unfamiliar format. They enjoyed being in church, commented with some wryness about the cakes that were on offer for sale, and looked like they were enjoying the fact that their decision to reform and make new music is once again paying dividends.