Riverside, a Polish progressive rock outfit that can claim musical kinship with bands like Pink Floyd, Tool, Dream Theater, and Porcupine Tree, are a modern prog stalwart that have forged their own successful brand through almost twenty years of hard work and a consistent melodic output spanning over eight studio albums. Riverside’s latest official release, ‘Lost‘N’Found – Live in Tilburg’, a double live album and DVD, is actually a throwback to a fanclub-only release of a concert that took place during the band’s successful 2015 European tour supporting their sixth album, “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine”. This release is also made more special for long-time fans and new converts alike by featuring original guitarist Piotr Grudzinski performing on his last tour with the band before his untimely and unfortunate passing in 2016.
From the outset of this review, I want to preface my opinions with a confession. I often think, with rare exceptions, that live albums are generally unnecessary and redundant, offering nothing new other than regurgitations of already recorded songs muddied by obnoxious crowd noise and transitional banter. That is why, in this review, I will focus mainly on the live DVD portion of this release because I do think that the visual aspect of a live show is mainly what adds value here and is why a lot of people generally go to concerts in the first place. So, without further ado, Lights… Camera… Action!
‘Lost’N’Found’ wastes no time at all by immediately introducing a distant shot of a dimly lit stage overlayed by the band’s name and title of the release followed by some heightened fanfare as members of the band are seen walking out to take their positions. The first song is “Lost”, the opening track from LFATTM, and the audience is treated to a somewhat extended intro with some reverb-soaked clean guitar improvisation by Piotr Grudzinski on a pillowy keyboard bed laid down by Michal Lapaj. Already the pacing is very deliberate and well-thought out as the structure of the intro to “Lost” gives a very natural musical introduction to the members of Riverside. Each member hits their cue and adds their layer to the song as it builds, gently pulling the crowd into their world. Once bassist and lead vocalist Mariusz Duda and drummer Piotr Kozieradzki are added into the mix, the full scope of Riverside’s live sonic landscape is laid bare, and it is impressively well-balanced. Every instrument, including Duda’s vocals, are easily heard and sit nicely in their proper frequency ranges, not in small part to the fact that the musicians themselves seem very aware of their own dynamics. As the band moves further into the setlist and their synchronicity becomes more confident, it becomes very apparent that this is not Riverside’s first rodeo. This is a band at a peak moment in their career.
I think developing a setlist is somewhat of an art for bands, especially when they have extensive back catalogs, but Riverside seem to have that down, too. Every album is represented (every album up to 2015 that is) by at least one song with an obvious emphasis on newer material, and the chosen songs are expertly organized to take the audience on a dynamic musical journey that ebbs and flows as naturally as possible. Also, as I said earlier about the intro to “Lost”, the pacing of the entire show is well-thought out; splitting intense, high-energy moments and atmospheric, contemplative moments in equal measure so the audience does not get burned out with either. My only gripe comes at the very end with the choice of “Found” as the final song of the show. Although it is a fitting closer for the ‘Love, Fear, and the Time Machine’ album and a beautiful song in general, it comes off as a little anti-climactic as the finale for an almost two-hour live performance, especially coming on the heels of an epic twenty-minute extended version of “Escalator Shrine”.
In the days before high-quality live video recordings, classic prog bands of the past, like the ones that have influenced Riverside’s own sound, had to be masters of stagecraft in order to draw a crowd. These days many albums come with DVDs packed with live footage and behind the scenes material and some bands even seem to release live concert videos for every album cycle. So, with the market saturated, a band like Riverside has their work cut out for them. Right off the top, ‘Lost’N’Found’ gives us a professional stage setup and excellent light show that showcases the band members and their performances very well. Though, the performances themselves focus more on the physical act of playing the instruments rather than the energy of movement, choreographed or otherwise. The members of Riverside seem to stay in their positions most of the time (except for Mariusz Duda, who does move around some during the show), and rely more on the music and lights to create the energy. This wouldn’t be a problem if the camerawork were creative and cinematic, but instead we get abrupt cutaways and odd editing choices. Sometimes it seems like the cuts are not intentional at all but on a repeated loop, moving from camera to camera in robotic fashion. It’s not until closer to the end of DVD that we start to get more interesting elements like split screen shots and fade transitions that really add interest, even if it is a bit too little, too late.
At the end of day, ‘Lost’N’Found – Live in Tilburg’ is a competent documentary of a Riverside concert at a critical and creative high point in their career. The performance is as good as any fan could ask for, and serves as a wonderful tribute to Piotr Grudzinski, who’s melodic guitar playing, and creative presence will surely be missed. Though it falls short of being an essential prog landmark, a true Riverside fan should definitely add this to their collection.