It hasn’t been too long since Poland’s Riverside last visited Finland in the fall of 2017. However, since then they’ve put out a new album, Wasteland, and in the spring of 2019 they returned to our country to promote it as part of the second European leg of the tour, during which Lesoir acted as the opening support. Musicalypse attended the Tampere show at Olympia on April 4th, 2019.
Listen to the setlists on Spotify:
Having interviewed Riverside mainman Mariusz Duda before the show, we went to grab some food and returned to Olympia shortly after the doors had been opened to find a decent number of people waiting in line already. At 20:00 the wait was over and the Dutch art rockers, Lesoir, took the stage rather unceremoniously with no intro tape. I hadn’t read anything about them beforehand, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the psychedelic guitar intro of the first song caught my attention from the start. The band’s selection of songs was quite diverse, and the music, while not groundbreaking, was an interesting mix of different influences, such as oriental, spacey, and symphonic elements.
As for the individual tunes that stood out to me, “Single-Eyed” had an interesting section where the vocals and guitar mimicked each other, while “Gone and Forgotten” had a beautiful intro, during which you could simply close your eyes and lose yourself in the atmosphere. I also enjoyed “Going Home”, which reminded me a bit of The Gathering, and they even threw in one instrumental song – “Luctor et Emergo” – which is not something you hear often from support bands. That said, I wasn’t overly enthused about the songs with heavy orchestral backing tracks, and the band’s palette of sounds was so wide that it was right on the edge of getting just a little bit too schizophrenic at times.
I was impressed by Maartje Messen’s powerful voice, which cut through the music loud and clear, as well as the fact that she also played flute(!) and keyboards. However, she was not the only multitalented woman on stage, as Eleen Bartholomeus played guitar, percussion, keyboards, and sang backing vocals. I also have to commend Bob van Heumen for his dynamic drumming; forceful, but also subtle when needed. Lesoir gave a professional overall impression and had a good chemistry and presence on stage. While I wasn’t totally sold on every single tune they played, I’ll have to check out their studio output to see what their albums have to offer.
(On a side note, Lesoir actually streamed their whole set live on Facebook, so for once you get the opportunity to listen and judge a performance for yourselves, even if you weren’t there.)
1. Feet on the Ground
3. Gone and Forgotten
4. In the Game
5. Luctor et Emergo
6. Going Home
7. Eden’s Garden
8. Faith Is
Right after Lesoir was done, an ambient soundscape started playing and continued throughout the changeover to set the mood for Riverside’s show. The Poles kicked things off with “Acid Rain” and its distorted bass intro. After the lead single, “Vale of Tears”, it was already time for the first instrumental of the night, “Reality Dream”, but in an unexpected twist, the band stopped playing the song after less than a minute and Mariusz Duda took the moment to talk to the audience. He was happy at the number of young faces in the crowd, but also apologized for the platform in front of the stage, which prevented the members from being as close to the fans as they would’ve liked to. This was only my second time at Olympia, but I immediately got a flashback from the Von Hertzen Brothers gig I saw there last fall, during which Mikko von Hertzen remarked that the venue had “the weirdest stage in Finland.” After the little introductory banter, the band continued “Reality Dream” where it left off.
Duda openly told the crowd that he’s not overly keen on the prog tag Riverside is associated with, but admitted that they have their fair share of complex songs in the back catalog and that they would play some of that material as well. However, a lot of these songs were played in a truncated form: for example, “Saturate Me” was cut off after the intro and segued into “Out of Myself”, while “Second Life Syndrome” only included the first part. I didn’t mind these edited versions though, having heard the full versions on the previous tour, and they fit the flow of the show better this way. I’d even dare argue that “Egoist Hedonist” sounded better with the third part omitted. On the other hand, “Left Out” was played in its full glory, and the song’s dense atmosphere was perfectly recreated on stage. The most special moment of the 2-hour show for me, however, was the somber “Loose Heart”, which is one of my top 3 Riverside songs: Maciej Meller nailed the gorgeous guitar solo, and hearing Duda unleash his screams at the end was nothing short of intense.
As they were promoting a new album, Riverside naturally played a lot of material from Wasteland – in fact, save two tracks, they played the whole record over the course of the set. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that the new songs sounded heavier than on the record, which has a slightly dry production to my ears, and this helped me hear the more riff-oriented songs on the album in a new light. “Lament” was a standout tune with its low, booming bass in the chorus, and the frantic crescendo of the title-track brought the main set to a rousing conclusion. The instrumental “The Struggle for Survival” is not a very exciting album track, but its solo offered Meller a deserved moment in the spotlight, and it was impossible not to sing along to Duda’s catchy vocal melody at the end, so it justified its spot in the setlist. I’m also usually not a fan of bands closing their shows with a new song, but I have to say “River Down Below” – featuring roadie and extra musician Matteo Bassoli on bass while Duda played acoustic guitar – with its extended outro, ended the evening on a high note.
When Mariusz Duda told me during the interview that the fans who saw Riverside on the Towards the Blue Horizon Tour would get to experience a different band this time around, he was definitely not kidding, as the band’s performance was much more confident and joyful now. Duda did acknowledge the late Piotr Grudziński before the end of the show, stating that he is still with them in their hearts, but you could tell that they were no longer in the midst of the grieving process and that they’d moved on. Maciej Meller – while still a touring guitarist and not an official member – also seemed slightly more liberated on stage, now having some solos of his own to play and not having to be in a deceased musician’s shoes for the whole set. Duda has really stepped up as a frontman, and while I read at least one dissenting opinion on the amount of “playing to the gallery” and singalongs at one of the earlier Finnish shows on social media, I feel that audience participation and interaction is the whole point of concerts. You can always listen to the albums alone in candlelight under the covers, but it’s not often that you get the opportunity to enjoy the music in the same room with hundreds of like-minded folks and show your appreciation to the people who made it.
The crowd was with Riverside from the first second, and Duda indeed complimented the Tampere audience for being the loudest Finnish crowd on this tour. He also promised that Finnish fans wouldn’t have to wait half a year after the release of the next album for them to come back, which was a piece of news the 500-strong audience reacted to very positively. Earlier on he had asked how many people were seeing them for the first time, and quite a few raised their hands. It’s a pleasure to see that Riverside’s Slavic melancholy keeps resonating with more and more listeners, because they deserve every bit of that success, and seeing what a strong live act they’ve become, I see no reason why they wouldn’t continue to grow in popularity. Riverside played an excellent selection of songs with a lot of energy, and you’d be a fool not to check out these guys next time they come around!
Intro (Wasteland Soundscape)
1. Acid Rain
2. Vale of Tears
3. Reality Dream
5. Saturate Me (intro only)
6. Out of Myself
7. Second Life Syndrome (part 1 only)
8. Left Out
9. Guardian Angel
10. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
11. The Struggle for Survival
12. Egoist Hedonist (without part 3)
13. Loose Heart
15. 02 Panic Room
16. River Down Below
Photos: Charlotta Rajala