Usually, when a band says that they will be back soon, or next year, it is most of the time just a pleasantry for the audience or wishful thinking of the band members at best. Given that most of the time very little actually depends on actual band members when it comes to touring, you can’t really blame them either. So when Mariusz Duda, during their concert in Belgrade in 2019 said that they will be coming back for the Balkan tour next year, I didn’t really get my hopes too high. Fast forward a little less than a year, I was pleasantly surprised to see the announcement of Riverside coming back to Serbia, almost exactly one year later to a date (13.03.2019 vs 06.03.2020). Their third time playing in Serbia, but first time in Novi Sad, in Pozorište Mladih (meaning Youth Theater).
“Third time’s the charm”, they say, and oh how it turned out to be true for Riverside. When the concert was announced, I was a bit surprised, given that they have chosen an all-seated venue, which actually is a small theater in the center of Novi Sad. Yet, Riverside’s music might be one of those cases where it actually suits the band perfectly to play in a seated venue. It seems to me that not every Riverside fan was happy with the choice of the location, but I was quite looking forward to the opportunity of watching this band in such an environment. The Balkan tour in the meantime became the second part of the European „Wasteland“ tour. Sadly band had to skip Italy and cancel a few concerts there due to the unfortunate epidemic of certain virus whose name starts with C and rhymes with ‘demonetized’. Another big thing for Riverside just before this tour was quite bittersweet. As many Riverside fans know, four years ago Riverside lost one of their founding members, guitarist Piotr Grudzinski who sadly suddenly passed away. Riverside became a trio, and for a few years they had Maciej Meller as a live member of the band, but few weeks before the tour started, it was announced that Maciej had become a full-time member of the band, making Riverside a quartet again. And although Maciej already played with Riverside since 2017, this was his first time in Serbia as an official band member.
Back to the concert, lights out and away we go, and what a start of the concert it was. There was no fence, only a few steps between the front rows and the band on the stage, which made the atmosphere very intimate and friendly. What struck me first, besides the emotions of watching such a great band live again, was the fantastic lightning. I tend to focus more on music and the bend performance, than on the stage, lighting, costumes, band look and such trivialities, although they can be quite helpful when it comes to making a good atmosphere. But lightning last night was one of the best I have seen, I believe it fitted perfectly with the band’s music and greatly contributed to the atmosphere. Of course, lightning was just a sweet cherry on top. I did not know what to expect, given that this is not usually a concert venue, but the sound was really, really great, at least in place where I was seated. Together with the already mentioned lights and the theater ambient, it created a quite unique atmosphere. The best part of it, it seemed that the band truly and genuinely enjoyed playing and that they too had a really good time throughout the whole concert.
One big commendation must be given to the band, given that they played for two hours, with only the usual small pause just before the encore. Although this tour was named “With The Sun Tour” it was basically a second part of the “Wasteland” tour, and naturally, it was the album with most songs played that night. But no album was left forgotten, given that the band played, as mentioned, for two hours and eighteen songs. I must also mention a cover of the Pink Floyd’s classic “Wish You Were Here” which was dedicated to the late Piotr, and which was one of the most emotional moments of the night. During the concert, the band played both their slower, more emotional or ballad-like songs, but they also delivered with some of their faster, and more heavier stuff.
When Riverside and their style of progressive metal/progressive rock comes to mind, headbanging is not usually the first thing that springs to your mind. But it was nice to see many people, myself included, who despite being seated kept headbanging throughout most of the band’s songs. I mentioned that the band left the impression of really enjoying playing that night, and I think the audience had their share too. Given their style of music, someone unfamiliar with their performances might mistakenly assume that audience in an all-seater venue with a progressive metal band playing would not be the loudest of the liveliest of the crowds. They would be very, very mistaken. If the band looked like they really enjoyed playing, the audience gave the impression that they could do this for another two hours. Even more, emphasized with the sending off the band was given after the end of the show. During the whole show, there was no lack of clapping and singing and supporting the band. I am unsure who smiled more the band or the audience but seeing all those emotions and happiness, along with an occasional tear in the eyes during some of the more emotional songs, it really felt fantastic. I can only imagine how it would feel if you were an actual band member on the stage. I really lack the words and superlatives to describe it, so I will leave it at that, knowing that everybody who saw this fantastic concert will understand what I am talking about.
This was the third time for Riverside to play in Serbia, and also my third time of seeing them live. They have always been a band with really good live performance, in all the venues they played in Serbia so far, they have been really, really good. But this third time in Novi Sad was something otherworldly, not only their best show in Serbia so far, but in general on of the best metal concerts I have seen in my life. If someone was to tell me that my neck would hurt, from headbanging from a Riverside concert (!) and all that in a seated venue (!!) … even I would not find it easy to believe it. Huge thanks, both to the band and to the promoters for choosing this venue, and although I am sure some people would not agree with the choice of the seated venue, I found it both refreshing and fantastic, especially good suited to the style of music Riverside is playing. Looking forward to seeing Riverside again, although it will be a hard task to outdid what they just gave us the other night.