Live Review: Ride Reunite at The Warfield

DJ Jamie Jams
April 13, 2015
The Warfield

Better than: Waiting all day in the desert to see Ride.

“This is the biggest show we've ever played in America, so thanks for coming,” guitarist and vocalist Andy Bell says before confidently strumming the opening chords of “Vapour Trail.” It's one of Ride's finest songs, showcasing the strong melodies and layering of warm, effects-laden guitars that helped Ride burst onto the UK Indie scene in the early '90s. It's also one of the few words Bell and Mark Gardner utter throughout the over hour-long set. In interviews the band has said that it tries to make its music the personality of the group instead of its members. Monday night at The Warfield, that personality shined brightly.

The guitars were loud and tonally matched with the recorded versions of the songs, but the bass was more forceful live than anything captured on a Ride recording. The crowd, composed almost entirely of people who were old enough to have seen Ride the last time they played in San Francisco (1992), are getting the Ride they had hoped for.

[jump] The recently reunited shoegaze pioneers opened the night with the dreamy, psyched-out song “Polar Bear” followed immediately by the more rocking “Seagull.” The band then proceeded to rip through a set of songs off its first two albums Nowhere (1990) and Going Blank Again (1992), sprinkling in a few choice cuts from its earlier EPs. Visually, the band was backed by impressive stage lighting that augmented a huge banner behind it reading “RIDE.”

The band has this sort of effortless cool about them. Guitarist and vocalist Mark Gardner (Not a former San Francisco Giant pitcher, if you were wondering) smiled and moved around a bit as he played, wearing a hat that would seem more appropriate on Indiana Jones — but it's working for him. Bell, on the other side of the stage, seemed to be working from the Liam Gallagher (his band-mate in Oasis and more recently Beady Eye) stage presence playbook, making moving as deliberately and little as possible strangely engaging. He was wearing sunglasses inside, a button-down denim shirt, and that Brit-pop haircut that everyone who was there for Brit-pop is still hanging on to — so yea, he's cool as fuck. Considering the way they look and sound, you wouldn't guess that this was the first week of Ride's first tour since the mid-'90s. 

About an hour into the set Bell wanted to know, “How many of you were here the last time we played San Francisco?” A smattering of applause and cheers from the packed house prompted Bell to respond with, “Not that many. Well, this is for you then.” It's the hypnotic dream-pop track “Paralyzed” going out to the shoegaze OGs, followed by the more uptempo “Taste” and the hit “Vapor Trail” all off Nowhere. This section of the set has the crowd partying like it's 1992.

Gardner (Not the Giants' bullpen coach) alerted the crowd that the next song would be the last before tearing into “Drive Blind” with an extended (by at least a couple minutes) feedback and rapid strobe light interlude in the middle. When Gardner and company came back in from all the noise with the song's chorus the crowd cheered loudly. This would have been a fitting ending, showcasing the melody-versus-noise dichotomy of Ride, but it seems every concert needs at least one or two highly telegraphed encores.

Ride came back and played “Leave Them All Behind,” an eight minute long epic that culminates with a noisy instrumental crescendo. After that Ride said goodnight again, but the enthusiastic claps and stamping of feet brought them back out for “Like a Daydream” and “Chelsea Girl.” Towards the end of “Chelsea Girl” the music began to warp into something different, inexplicably Ride is somehow now covering “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges. The chorus-heavy guitars created an interesting rendition of the proto-punk classic. It's an M. Night Shyamalan style twist ending to the night, but no one is complaining.

Critic's Notebook:

– Before Ride took the stage UK post-punk outfit Eagulls played a solid set to a politely disinterested quarter-full room. Their last song “Possessed” was the most dancey and exciting they had to offer.

– In-between Eagulls and Ride I watched a couple drunk middle-aged tech bros browse the Coachella iPhone app together, comparing their schedules for next weekend and talking about a sponsored drink ticket hook they had. Be sure not to miss Ride, bros.

– When Ride played “Leave Them All Behind” they brought out a dude with mutton chops and a tambourine. He danced strangely and hardly ever got close enough to a microphone to be heard. They seemed excited he was there, but I have no idea who he was.

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