This is not a review, as I am not a rock critic. Even if I was one, there is no way that I could be objective about this particular concert, or about this particular band. Since discovering Ride’s music in 1992, my mental image of them had developed almost exclusively through their recordings; I missed out on seeing them live in the 1990s because of the combination of my youth and of bad timing. Having never seen them in the flesh, I couldn’t properly envision the fact that this music that meant so much to me was created by real people. By 2014, Ride had become a bittersweet memory in my head; a missed opportunity; a symbol of a world that existed beyond my reach as a teenager. It’s silly in retrospect, but Ride had morphed in my head in those two decades from fact to myth, and in that time, I sort of forgot that these musicians were humans that still walked this earth.
I don’t think I need to explain the whirlwind of emotions that hit me when the banner was unfurled in Barcelona. Everyone reading this probably felt them right along with me.
I have crossed state lines before to see other bands, but I was anticipating this sold-out concert in New York like none other before in my life. Usually, I go to concerts alone, both by circumstance and by choice. I know very few people in my “real life” that like the same kind of music as I do, and unless I know other people who are as passionate about the band as I am, I prefer to be alone as the music takes over my senses. However, for this show, I did bring my husband, both because he had never been to New York before, and because he needed to be properly introduced to the music that had become part of the fiber of my being.
The opening act (Ash) finished its set and my senses began heightening as I anticipated what was to come… it felt like all of the colors and sounds around me were intensifying. Just before Ride came on stage, I felt a strong wave of emotion – not quite sadness, but the feeling of saying goodbye to the life you currently know, because it’s clear that what is coming next will change your world as you know it. And good lord, was I right.
It’s hard to properly describe the breathless wonder I felt at hearing the sheer power and beauty of this music in person. I was utterly overwhelmed within the first minute of Leave Them All Behind. Standing in the third row of house left, my entire body was shaking with the waves of sound coming off that stage. Steve’s powerful bass playing resonated deep within my bones and kicked off a night where I wasn’t just enjoying the music, I became the music. I exhilarated in the incredible vocal quality of Andy’s guitar playing (especially during Polar Bear – was that an e-bow?). I had previously heard Mark sing live on a solo tour, but his voice this night was even better than I had remembered. Loz has always been one of my favorite drummers on record, but finally getting to witness his spectacular playing live sent chills up and down my spine. The first four songs in the set (LTAB, Like a Daydream, Polar Bear, Seagull) were a perfect, mesmerizing 1-2-3-4 punch. I never had a chance to catch my breath; the combined forces of all four of these artists had my heart racing like mad. I didn’t mind.
After the blistering fire of Seagull, the chords to Sennen rang out in the hall. What a beauty. It was the perfect choice for this point in the set; the sound was truly three-dimensional and surrounded the crowd in a musical embrace. For some reason, I had never imagined that I would get to hear this particular song live, so it was an extra special treat to be enveloped by the shimmering, swirling sound of Andy and Mark’s guitars.
Cool Your Boots was next, and it made me unspeakably happy to get to see and hear Loz’s artistry on display in the outro. It’s like he was simply shaking the beats out of his sleeves! By this point in the set, I was in such awe that my head was a joyful mess. If someone had asked me a question at this moment, I am pretty sure I would have been completely incoherent, with a huge, goofy smile on my face.
Being so close to the stage was an overwhelming experience. I usually opt to listen to concerts further back in a hall, for acoustical reasons. However, this was one concert I needed to see to believe, and it was almost too much to process at times, to know that I was about 25 feet from this glorious racket. I kept catching myself closing my eyes to immerse myself in the roar but then I would force them back open to see the incredible reality in front of me. For once, I didn’t want to live in my head. The world I wanted to live in was right where I was, right in front of my eyes.
At the time I am writing this, seven months have passed since this show, so small details about the night have been lost in the ether of time, but what hasn’t been lost is how the music made me feel. I was wide-eyed with wonder. Natural Grace was a surprise – I didn’t think Ride would be including anything from Carnival of Light, so how lucky for me that they happened to choose my favorite track from that album! The opening to OX4 fooled me for a moment because the drum beat is so similar to In A Different Place, but there was no mistaking the sheer joy emanating from that stage as the band transitioned from Motorway Madness into the main part of OX4. It sounded like a plane was taking off! The amazing songs just kept on coming. Dreams Burn Down blew my hair back with its power. Paralysed was an unexpected, devastating song to hear live (in the best possible way). Obviously, Vapour Trail is a perennial crowd favorite, and I can still hear the gasps and shouts of recognition from all of the people around me. It was a sweet feeling to be swept up in the excitement, being surrounded at last by others that understood and shared my deep love for this music. In that moment, surrounded by strangers in a faraway city, a part of me finally knew what it felt like to come home.
Ride closed their set with Drive Blind, and what a closer it was! Steve’s sinuous bass line was simultaneously menacing and alluring… I was as transfixed as if I was looking into the eyes of a beautiful predator. That captivating sound, plus the seductive sway of the melody, the ferocious playing from all four men… it created a massive roar that made me want to chase it and disappear into the realm from which it came. I thought that my mind could not be blown any more than it was at that moment, but you all know I was wrong, don’t you? I should have known that these four souls would know how to take us even higher.
Side note: The security guard standing at the stage barrier was a statue for the majority of the gig; he simply stood facing the crowd with folded arms and a blank expression on his face throughout the show. However, when the noise section of Drive Blind hit, I could see the previously unflappable poker face give way to a look of complete confusion that clearly said, “What the FUCK is going on?!” My delighted, cathartic laughter in this moment probably made it look like I had lost my mind. In truth, I had! And I have never been happier for the loss.
The encore started off quietly, with a hushed, reverential, ambient-sounding passage in my favorite major key (B). I was racking my brain to figure out what this was; it didn’t sound like anything from their catalogue that I could recognize. Something new, perhaps? Another part of me was yelling at myself to stop analyzing and to just enjoy, so I did that. Then, the guitar riff started… and that unmistakable drumbeat kicked in. I stopped breathing. If there was one Beatles song I would have chosen to hear Ride cover, Tomorrow Never Knows would be the one. When Mark started to sing John Lennon’s immortal words, I felt my hands rise up involuntarily as I blinked back tears for this amazing gift. I still can’t believe that I was there to witness this in person.
By the last song (Chelsea Girl), I was on one of the most intense emotional highs I had ever experienced in my life. To me, this song is full of the exuberance of youth, and it embodies the rapturous, heart-pounding feeling of embarking on living a life of one’s choosing. In it, I can hear dreams starting to become reality. What a perfect song to end this unbelievable show. The concert had surpassed all of my expectations and I was completely stunned by what I had just witnessed. Ride had yanked my soul from my body for the duration of their performance and as I returned to earth, I suddenly realized that I was worn out from being put through the emotional wringer, my voice was hoarse, my feet were aching… and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
On the walk back to where we were staying that night in Hell’s Kitchen, I asked my husband what he thought. He enjoyed it, particularly the fourth song. Unbeknownst to him, Seagull is my favorite Ride track of all time! He may never be a fan like I am, but at least I know he’s got good taste.
The two other Ride shows I saw later in 2015 were both memorable in their own ways (memorable enough for me to write nearly 6000 words about them combined! Don’t worry. I’m NOT going to publish those), and I have no doubt that if I’m lucky enough to see another Ride concert in my lifetime, it will be a night I won’t soon forget. But no matter what’s in store in the future, this concert at Terminal 5 will forever stand out in my head as the moment where I was able to rewrite the ending to a story I had thought was finished; where I experienced the ecstasy of having a dream fulfilled; where I found out that sometimes, reality is even better than anything the imagination can come up with! What a privilege it was to be a Ride fan in 2015.
Now that a whole year has passed since this incredible show, reading what I wrote above reminds me of a journal entry from another life. Seeing Ride live changed me forever. I don’t mean that they changed who I am as a person (I’m still my earnest, introverted, wordy, unguarded, slightly kooky self); I mean that I reached a whole new level of respect and admiration for this group that I thought I knew. It’s a testament to the creativity and strength of their recordings that Ride had managed to become my favorite band, without having witnessed their amazing presence live. As a performer myself, I know that live music has a magic to it that recordings just can’t capture, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by how my feelings for this band intensified upon experiencing them as they were meant to be experienced. What a lovely surprise it was.
A thousand thanks to Ride for creating music that resonates with so many of us across the globe, and for taking the chance on this reunion. How poetic that something invisible can be so beautiful… even though music can’t be seen, it changes the air it touches. It exists in this world but is also not part of this physical world. It’s not trapped in museums; it can be everywhere at once, in people’s ears and hearts and minds. Music travels to places that can’t be found on a map, and journeys through time in ways that a single human life will never be able to comprehend. What powerful, important work it is, to be a musician! Nietzsche was right; without music, life would be a mistake. And I know that very little has felt as right in my life as that fateful moment when I turned on the radio and heard the music of Ride for the first time.
Loz, Steve, Mark, Andy – Thank you for coming to North America so many times last year. Now, it’s my turn to come to you. Looking forward to the September UK shows. 🙂
Terminal 5 set list, courtesy of The Ride Archives (ride.band)
Leave Them All Behind
Like A Daydream
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)