Riverside at O2 Institute2 in Birmingham

Riverside on the stage

Considering it’s England’s second city it’s odd that Birmingham sometimes struggles to bring both bands and punters into town when it comes to prog, but thankfully the O2 Institute2 is packed tonight with fans awaiting a double dose of some of the continent’s finest progressive exports.

Klone put on an impressive performance when they supported Devin Townsend in nearby Wolverhampton last year so I was excited to see them return to our shores so soon. For this tour they’re playing in a full band acoustic format. For anybody that has heard their 2017 Unplugged release knows that this is by no means a disappointing proposition.

They have a generous 55 minute slot to work with and they make the most of it by letting the music do most of the talking for them. Despite being unplugged and stripped of extra atmospheric layers, the songs manage to retain a lot of their dynamics, meaning that the ‘heavy’ moments still have the desired impact and vocalist Yann Ligner isn’t afraid to deploy some judiciously placed harsh vocals.

Klone took a different approach with this tour sticking to acoustic instruments

At first their arrangement of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun seems like it may have lost too much of the original’s hazy dread but it all falls into place as it bursts into life for the second half. Though reactions were muted towards the start of their set, the audience clearly warmed up to the band as they received a standing ovation worthy of the headliner when they finished. Hopefully responses like this will tempt them back for a long overdue headline visit soon.

Riverside were only here at this very venue last April, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that the band were coming back to the UK for one last leg of their ID.Entity tour before they look forward to their next chapter. The only real downside is that the setlist hasn’t changed a whole lot since then, with 2015’s Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?) and a few snippets of other old tracks being the only fresh inclusions.

However, the show itself proves to be far more than a simple re-run of last year. The audience have had a lot more time to become familiar with the new songs and the band seem more assured in performing them. Before things settle into the newer cuts, the band gets everyone warmed up with a few energetic fan favourites in the form of #Addicted and 02 Panic Room. At one point frontman Mariusz Duda addresses the risks of subverting audience expectations and doing what they want to do as artists by making a record driven by 80s influences so it’s encouraging to then see a song like the a-ha-inspired Friend or Foe? get a warm reception.

Newbie The Place Where I Belong proves to be the centrepiece of the set as it twists and turns between Floydian atmospherics and swaggering heavy sections over the course of a captivating 15 minutes. You can hear the bile in Duda’s voice as he delivers the song’s most enraged lyrics before he hands things over to a roaring crowd during the track’s climax.

When the band return to the stage for the encore it’s for an unconventional combination of the upbeat Self-Aware and closing ballad Conceiving You. During the latter Duda invites the audience to try their hands at a ‘silent scream’, which in practice is a very aggressive whisper. There’s a chance that such a gimmick might fall flat on its face but fortunately the crowd gives it their best shot and it turns out to be quite a powerful moment as the set comes to a close.

I’ve often seen Riverside described as a band that comes into their own in the live arena and tonight has well and truly sold me on the idea. Make no mistake, their albums are great, but the energy and fluidity of their live performances makes their shows the definitive way to experience Riverside.

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