At its early-Nineties peak, shoegaze foursome Ride hit listeners with a potent blend of noise and melody. Last night at London's 100 Club, the band's first gig in 20 years emphasized the latter, with singer-guitarists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell giving the acoustic treatment to anthems such as "Like a Daydream" and "Twisterella" while bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Loz Colbert watched from the audience.
The 100 Club, unusually, became a seated venue for the occasion, with Gardener and Bell also on stools for the hour-long set. There were signs of nerves during some extensive tuning before the first song – Bell had earlier said he was "more scared about this gig than any other one in the last 20 years." But Gardener, who now wears a hat rather than hiding behind a floppy fringe, proved his dreamy vocals intact on set opener "Polar Bear," taken from Ride's classic 1990 debut album Nowhere, and the pair soon hit their stride, enrapturing the crowd with a gentle take on the same record's "In a Different Place."
Material from Nowhere and 1992 follow-up Going Blank Again, plus the band's early EPs, dominated the set, although the pair also dipped into 1994's less-heralded Carnival of Light for "Only Now" and "From Time to Time" that showed they were still writing soaring pop melodies even in their later years.
The best, however, was saved for last, in an encore that included early EP tracks "Drive Blind" and "Chelsea Girl." Despite Bell's jokey request to "engage the effects," the former was a far cry from the epic, feedback-drenched version that was the norm in their electric shows back in the day. But as Bell thanked the crowd for "keeping this music alive for the last 20 years," he and Gardener holding their guitars aloft in triumph, it was more than enough to whet the appetite for the full band shows to come.
Those kick off in the U.S., at the Coachella Festival on April 10 – the biggest show Ride will have ever played – and speaking to Rolling Stone ahead of last night's gig, Bell said American audiences were responsible for the band being able to make their comeback, after an acrimonious split in 1996.
"When Ride finished, the feeling I had in the U.K. was that things had moved on," he said. "People didn't even really notice when we finished – Britpop was coming out and was huge. I was as swept up in that as anyone else."
Indeed, Bell joined Britpop titans Oasis on bass in 1999, but while touring the States with the Gallagher brothers, he found fans also wanted to talk to him about his former band. "The interest mainly came from America at first," he said. "I'd like to thank them for that – and also for reclaiming 'shoegazing' and turning it into a positive. It became the American term for the genre and they didn't use it as a pejorative."
Gardener, who has spent most of the years since Ride's split pursuing a low-key solo career, declared himself similarly "buzzed" about the U.S. interest in the band.
"I feel blessed that we've got the opportunity to do it again," he said. "It was a strange ending but also quite right for what we were doing. Ride never felt like a 'career' band – we drove the car really fast and crashed it."
Ride fell apart the first time during the making of 1996's Tarantula and never toured that album. Although they settled their differences relatively quickly and even played together over the years, Bell never anticipated the band getting back together properly, until he was inspired by recent reunion shows from the La's, the Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine.
"All three have come together and done gigs, and I felt so grateful to them for doing it," said Bell. "Translating that feeling across to people that want to see our band, it just seemed churlish not to do it."
Consequently, Bell says the gigs will "give people what they want – we're not going to be doing Tarantula in full or anything," while Gardener pledges to "focus on the big tunes." Rehearsals for the full band shows – which also include gigs in San Francisco, Pomona, New York and Atlanta's Shaky Knees Festival – begin in earnest next month, but Gardener says he already knows the band's original magic remains intact.
"There's nothing like that feeling when you play with your original band," he said. "It's like your first love – there's a hell of a chemistry here."
"In a Different Place"
"Like a Daydream"
"From Time to Time"
"Dreams Burn Down"