November 30, 2020

Previously only available as a limited edition fan club release, and as a bonus disc on the reissue of Anno Domini, High Definition, Live in Tilburg features Polish progmeisters Riverside giving an outstanding performance on their 2015 ‘Towards the Blue Horizon’ tour, which this reviewer was fortunate enough to see. There was always going to be an added poignancy to this release because it was the last tour the band played with guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, who sadly died only a few months after the tour concluded which, for a short while, cast a shadow over the future of the band. Only the hardest heart can watch the accompanying DVD and not be moved by seeing Grudzinski playing beautifully, and knowing it was the last time.

A great image of Riverside, in happier times (Piotr far left)

Riverside have a kind-of understated Pink Floyd influence, but they can be chilled, they can freak-out occasionally and they can play power metal with the best of them – though unlike Dream Theater, they don’t drown everything in virtuosity, with the players leaving room for each other to breathe, as apparent on tracks like Egoist Hedonist. They operate in the area somewhere between Porcupine Tree, with their ambient landscapes, and Dream Theater with their power playing. Everyone in the band is a superb musician but, on this album, a special shout-out should go to keyboard man Michal Lapaj, whose use of synths and keys to create an ambient backdrop is exemplary. Similarly with drummer Piotr Kozieradzki who, rather than be as busy on the kit as Mike Mangini, simply plays only what’s required for the tune.

Tilburg is a delightful sonic exploration of Riverside’s back catalogue. It’s a double CD with 105 minutes of music, and every studio album up to this time is revisited. Lost opens up with a lovely guitar intro from Piotr Grudzinski, and atmospheric keyboard work from Lapaj. Feel Like Falling gets a slightly heavier makeover from the album version, and Hyperactive is given a far more aggressive tone. There’s a slightly different intro to one of Riverside’s most beautiful tunes, with Mariusz Duda playing a funky bass line before the majestic Conceiving You. They then give a prog workout with a powerful version of Panic Room, minus the closing section on the original album version, before Grudzinski writes his name all over a barnstorming Depth Of Self-Delusion with some sublime playing. The first CD concludes with Saturate Me, featuring great guitar and keyboard playing.

The second CD begins with Egoist Hedonist, minus the brass section, where the keys come to the forefront and featuring a bout of very complex interplay between the musicians. Then there’s a complete change of pace with the beautiful We Got Used To Us, as near to a love song as Riverside have ever performed, with Grudzinski playing some gorgeous guitar. His searing blast of prog metal starts off a lengthy intro into the twenty minute version of Escalator Shrine, which is more pulsating than the studio version, and which concludes the set. Returning for an encore, they play The Same River, with its lengthy intro before the vocals come in. The final track is Found, another of Riverside’s quite gorgeous songs, and on the DVD, there’s a delightful clip taken from behind the band which shows the audience holding up lights as the intro is played, and as the track opens, the guitar leads instead of the piano.

 Live In Tilburg is a fitting tribute to Piotr Grudzinski, whose masterful playing is one of the highlights of the album, and the fact Riverside continued on and were able to record an album as good as 2018’s Wasteland suggests Grudzinski’s spirit still imbues the band. For any Riverside fan, this CD is an essential purchase.