Ride & Spectres - MIF, The Ritz, Manchester

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

As part of Manchester International Festival's (MIF) biennial appearance, dream-weavers Ride are in town promoting their comeback album, their first in 21 years, at the rather unspectacular and somewhat soul-sucking venue of the O2 Ritz.

First up though are fellow Oxford natives Spectres. The free earplugs on the door are a bit of a give-away of what we're going to be subjected to and Spectres don't disappoint with an ear-bleeding noise barrage of abstract beauty that delights a decent percentage of the crowd, whilst leaving others in bewilderment.

Using a mobile phone light as a portable E-bow to create fucked-up soundscapes is an ingenious idea as the band pound their claustrophobic, loud and aggressive instrumentation to the soundtrack of Dystopian nightmares. Joe Hatt's deep monotone, barely-audible vocals add to the mystique and fuzzed bass tones support battered drums and free-form guitar noises. 'Sink' is an early highlight, as the vocals remain hypnotic, the guitars remain chiming and bludgeoning and the music synchs its dark and mantric beauty with the audience. Touching on No Wave but with more construction and with the non-singing guitarist perfecting the Lee Ranaldo art of guitar playing by managing to get all sorts of wonderful atonal noises out of his guitar as the rest of the band drive on, Spectres are an intense delight. If Ride obsess with the melodic guitar tunings of My Bloody Valentine, Spectres are focussed more on the apocalyptic middle-eight of 'You Made Me Realise'. A nice touch to lighten the atmosphere though is with their band-name hand-written on a paper plate adorning their drum kit as the big Ride banner looms overhead.

Testing the water with the audience Ride launch into the opening track of the long-awaited Weather Diaries album 'Lannoy Point'. Heavy on electronics and atmosphere and a nice spacious riff that Ride have always specialised in, it's a nice and successful opener that gets the crowd going. Heavily rotated 'Charm Assault' though is a bit of a stumble, sounding more a mash-up of all of their previous albums than anything else on offer tonight, it doesn't have the strength to match the opener, and somewhat sums up the frustrating nature of the new material, as the superbly soaring new single 'Cali' is followed up by the limp 'Weather Diaries', which feels like Coldplay trying to badly cover My Bloody Valentine. 'All I Want' though may be a new fan favourite as spectral guitars and pre-programmed samples share the bloodline of the early EPs and are greeted with enthusiasm by the audience. The biggest surprise though is with the live debut of 'Rocket Silver Symphony', full of pre-programmed synths and electronics at the start, it launches into a rare vocal in the verse from drummer Loz before opening out into an emphatic chorus.

The majority of the audience though are here for the Oldies and they are treated with early favourites 'Seagull' and 'Like A Daydream', allowing the balding forty-somethings to relive their youth and bop round in unison. 'Taste' and 'Vapour Trail' are just magical as always but it's the double of 'Unfamiliar' followed by the emotional 'Time Of Her Time' that are the highlights of the evening, before 'Drive Blind' closes the main set, with a nice bit of Spectres-lite during the middle, as Mark revels in the 'rock god' moment.

The encore begins with the Mercury Rev meets Day In The Life era Beatles of 'White Sands' before 'Leave Them All Behind' and then 'Chelsea Girl' sends the audience into raptures.

The issue though I have with tonight is that this is just a gig from a band promoting their new album. There is nothing special in the MIF repertoire about it. Where are the 24 piece Icelandic female voice choirs and Tesla Coil players (Bjork), the surreal playing under a train station in a weird cube (The XX), the velodrome as the British Olympic Team Circle the audience during 'Tour De France' (Kraftwerk), that wowed audiences in unusual locations at previous MIF festivals? It might have helped Ride's cause if they hadn't played that memorable comeback gig at the Albert Hall, just up the road, two years previously, as this performance would always be compared to that. Then, the expectation was feverish before the band began and the energy and excitement continued throughout the whole set. Tonight, though the new material is welcome and sounds good on the whole, it doesn't quite live up to the early back-catalogue, unhelped by a rather dank and bog-standard venue.

Ride, with strong support from Spectres, though do their best and it was still a great performance from a band attempting to push into new directions while still maintaining a hold on their excellent past.

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0 out of 5 stars