Words by Jacqueline Howell, Photography by Dave MacIntyre.
Ride takes the stage at Toronto’s jewel, the Danforth Music Hall, like visiting old friends. This is one legendary British band who never forgets us, not in the period of recent global shoegaze resurgence or once they began recording new music again in 2017, with return visits on both album tours since. This venue feels a bit like a secret, where so many great British bands we could largely only long for in the 1990s as we pored over back pages of NME and Select magazine, have found their way regularly in recent years.
They enter to “R.I.D.E.” beginning a nineteen song set confidently with two more brand new ones: the shimmering “Jump Jet” and the infectiously jangly, harmonious and optimistic “Future Love”, rounding out their opening set with the eternally fresh, still urgent call to creative soul action: “Leave Them All Behind”, its extended outro firmly setting tonight’s musical mood. We are in for a treat, with classics and new tracks seamlessly mixed, a range of moods and sounds blended together with mastery, and all of it united by Ride’s iconic harmonies and tight-as-a-drum rhythm section.
The new record (the band’s sixth) is the extremely well received This is Not a Safe Place, their second new album in two years (2017’s Weather Diaries was their first since 1996’s Tarantula). Six new songs are played tonight, including one for the very first time (“End Game”). There’s the blistering, driving and psychedelia-tinged “Kill Switch” the exciting driving dance beat of “Repetition” and “Shadows Behind the Sun”. “Eternal Recurrence” sounds as if it could have emerged from any era of this band, and all the new music is stunningly impressive. It is the sound of a band – still united today with all four original members – who still have much to say, who won’t be pigeonholed by genre, era, or scene – the hallmark of true artistry.
The rather foreboding yet presciently titled This is Not a Safe Place speaks to this precise moment of late 2019, at the close of the first twenty years of a new century, so far from the defiant optimism of the 1990s we remember. The title suggests: Don’t get too comfortable. Stay alert. Be ready to move. It seems to connect to 2017’s Weather Diaries, then a darkening global moment when we were, perhaps, still looking for signs mystical, tribal or elemental, to save us. Ride’s new message is received clearly by the realest communities, global ones, a people united by music, values, critical thinking ability, and taste. Music is still a powerful form of protest, of rebellion, and of activism. It shakes us awake from the 24-hour news scroll, and fortifies our spirits for the daily onslaught, the next bad headline, or the gloom that’s come to rest on our shoulders too permanently. This album and its messages are sure to top the best of lists for this year as well as inspire both emerging bands and Ride’s contemporaries alike to create something new, urgent, and fearless in 2020, in defiance of all the noise.
The rest of the set is judiciously spread across the strong back catalog, including: “Chrome Waves” “Chelsea Girl” “Twisterella” “Drive Blind” and “Vapour Trail” (custom designed to ricochet you like a DeLorean back to whatever age you were in 1990). The crowd may not be too familiar with the weeks’ old new album yet, but they are committed and enthusiastic throughout. It is always heartwarming when lager louts don’t push forward for just their favourite old song, but a crowd settles into some sort of harmony for two hours. It is the ideal, and somehow, in the alchemy of rock and roll, it’s influenced by the artists themselves.
Shortly after the show, the band casually reconvenes at a nearby pub, itself a local institution that still welcomes new and traditional music to its small stage. Here, music talk is avid and casual, all barriers removed, as Ride’s harmonies still run through our heads and a few keen-eyed fans suss them out for a shy hello. The band are gracious, chill, and the epitome of cool, standing right there at a neighbourhood local, at ease with all of it: life, music, us, and the road, their home away from home.
Find dates near you on Ride’s far-ranging tour through U.S. / Canada (fall) U.K. and Europe (+ Japan) through February.