Riverside at Islington Assembly Hall, London - live review

Polish proggers regroup for a heartfelt London show

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(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

On December 30, 2016, a message posted on the Riverside website said: “Dear Friends, 2016 has not been a good year, we’ve been through a lot together but in spite of all, we have managed to put certain plans into practice and pave the way for new experiences. All this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for your continuous support, for which we are very grateful. Thank you! Next year, Riverside will play live again.”

For those unfamiliar with events, on February 21, 2016, founder member and guitarist Piotr Grudzinski died unexpectedly at the age of 40, from heart failure. It was barely six months since the release of the band’s sixth album, Love, Fear And The Time Machine, one that had generated the most interest to date outside of their fan base in Poland. Deeply affected by the loss of their brother and bandmate, the band elected to stay together as a trio and release Eye Of The Soundscape – an album of older, atmospheric tracks, alongside four new ones – while they figured out what lay ahead. In February, the trio of Mariusz Duda, Piotr Kozieradzki and Michał Łapaj played two shows with special guests at Warsaw music hall Progresja. A picture was posted online afterwards, along with the words: “Thank you for the two amazing, cathartic, unforgettable, one-of- a-kind evenings. We are moving on.”

So here we join them on the UK leg of a new tour. There’s no support, just two hours of Riverside in front of a packed house. Friend and guest guitarist Maciej Meller plays gorgeous lead on material that covers every stage of the group’s history, up to an unplugged break for Lost, where frontman and bassist Duda takes the spotlight, an acoustic guitar and a seat, revealing how nice it is to have a sit down, before delivering one of many poignant songs.

It’s a great rock show: confident, powerful but also human. Duda talks eloquently of Grudzinski, but is also a charming host with crystal folk soul vocals and terrific bass skills, which are especially evident on the elaborate improv of The Depth Of Self-Delusion.

They start and end with the sweet Coda, Duda encouraging us, “the family”, to participate as he adds some final lyrics: ‘We are moving on… we are moving on.’ Heartbreaking and heartfelt stuff.