The 100 Club (Passport Back To The Bars) – February 19th
There had to be a point in the last twelve months when Mark Gardener looked at what Slowdive had been up to and figured he really ought to be having some of that. If only his old partner in crime wasn’t sooooo ruddy busy doing a Guigsy impression in a piss poor version of Oasis. It really wasn’t a huge surprise when nanoseconds after Gallagher Jnr announced that he’d had enough of The Beady Eyes and wanted to concentrate on drawing pictures of duffel coats instead, that we saw the smoke signals rise over deepest darkest Oxfordshire, leaving behind the words some of us had waited forever to see written in its vapour (trail); Ride reform.
Which brings us here tonight. To the 100 Club. For the first outing of Mark and Andy Bell for numerous years. It’s not quite the ‘millions of years’ since they’ve played together that XFM’s Jon Kennedy proclaims in his introduction. There’ve been a few sightings of the pair in the last twenty years; there was that Channel 4 thing back at the turn of the millennium, and a ‘one off’ date in Sweden. But tonight is when the wheels on the Ride tour bus really start turning again. Albeit that Ride were/are a four piece and not a duo (oh, semantics). We’ve cunningly saved that to use as our get out clause in case it’s awful (“it doesn’t count”).
Plus it’s all for charidee; Warchild no less. Which means we’re a little more forgiving than perhaps we’d normally be. Because walking into the venue to discover it’s seated really makes a mockery out of the length of time it took to pick out which pair of converse we were going to stare at this evening (went for silver, in case it’s important to historians later). There will be no shuffling around staring at your feet tonight. It’s good in a way, because we’re now older and worry about the involuntary noises that sometimes pass our lips when moving suddenly. But is also bad because we’ve waited a long time for this and seated gigs sometimes seem to make the audience forget they’re watching live music, think they’re at home watching the telly, and have a little bit of a natter instead.
Which is exactly what happens later.
It all starts so well. The twosome take to the stage, and do one of those funny handshake things that isn’t really a handshake but emphasises that all the drama around the time of ‘Tarantula’ is over and they now love each other like old school mates should some thirty years later. Gardener spends what feels like forever tuning up but we do not shout at him to get on with it. We want to, but we are patient, and we are rewarded with ‘Polar Bear’. By the time they get to their second number, ‘In A Different Place’, there are tears in the corner of our eyes and we’re mesmerised. It doesn’t even matter that the guitars are tuned down to ‘acoustic’ when they should be turned up to ‘enormous’ or that it’s not beset with Loz Colbert’s drums (although that he’s propping up the bar with bassist Steve Queralt is a bit of a reminder of what we could have won, to be honest). Why, it’s even better as an acoustic number – proves just how beautiful it is – we think to ourselves, before deciding that we will not have another wine drink, just in case it’s clouding our critical judgement.
By the time they crack out ‘Twisterella’, by way of ‘It’s A Daydream’, it’s genuinely enthralling, and we’ve managed to effect some kind of weird ‘dancing whilst sitting down’ thing that nearly works and doesn’t make us look like dicks at all. And now we’re being treated to a genuine rarity, ‘Tongue Tied’, which went unreleased until its appearance on the bonus disc of their 2001 ‘Best Of’.
Which is, of course, where it goes a bit wrong, and unfamiliar with what’s being played, some of the audience begin those long conversations about childcare for little Johnny that are very important to have for the rest of the gig. But it’s okay, you can’t actually hear the exact moment my cold heart shatters, over the hubbub of discussions about school catchment areas. Sadly, the audience are so busy chatting that they miss the quite lovely ‘Only Now’ from much maligned Carnival Of Light. When we get to ‘Dreams Burn Down’, there’s a possibility that the audience are discussing the similarities to Coldplay’s ‘In My Place’, which would be a valid conversation to have (after the gig, natch) but the level of natter has got a wee bit tedious. There’s a school of thought here that if this was a teeny bit more engaging, or louder maybe, this wouldn’t be happening. But you had to actually win the (a) lottery to get here tonight, so surely some sense of occasion should have ensured that there was enough respect for the two men on stage to shut the crowd up?
It’s only when we get to the pretend last number (the one before the encore when the real last number gets played), that the audience are properly won again, and ‘Vapour Trail’ is greeted by veritable whoops and cheers. And when the twosome come back for the encore and bang out ‘Drive Blind’ and ‘Chelsea Girl’, the applause is genuine; it’s good to have Ride back.
“I’ve done a few acoustic gigs over the years,” mumbles Gardener, “But I cannot wait to plug in an electric…” It’s fair to say that we’re all with you on that, Mark. Whilst there were moments of magic tonight, we know that it’s just a promise of what’s to come. But as an aside, to anyone going to the Roundhouse, Field Day or Primavera; nights with Ride as they should be – loud and glorious – take this as your final warning. Anyone deciding to have a lovely little chat anywhere near me should expect to find my shiny silver converse implanted firmly where the sun don’t shine. Cool your boots, indeed.