GIG REVIEW: RIVERSIDE & THE CYBERIAM DUO Live at Lee’s Place, Toronto
Progressive rock band Riverside, hailing from Warsaw, Poland, is currently on the back half of their North American tour to promote the recent release of their eighth studio album, ID.Entity. Starting in Tampa, Florida on February 17th, the tour consists of 23 shows in 33 nights across Canada and the United States. Their concert in Toronto last Friday took place in front of a packed house at Lee’s Palace and provided an exciting musical evening for the hundreds of prog-rock enthusiasts in attendance.
The music started at 9 pm as a two-man opening act took to the stage. Billed as The Cyberiam Duo, these two musicians are actually only one-half of a Chicago-based progressive rock quartet called The Cyberiam. The full band, unfortunately, wasn’t able to join the tour due to logistical reasons, so guitarist Keith Semple and bassist Brian Kovacs took to the road to perform stripped-down arrangements of the band’s songs. Despite it being just a two-person act, the pair managed to produce a surprisingly full sound. Both members provided vocals, with Semple’s soaring leads harmonized flawlessly by Kovacs, and Semple also contributed percussion, using his feet to trigger an electronic bass drum sound while playing guitar in an impressive display of multitasking. The duo displayed great technical ability and dynamic range while playing acoustic, sometimes almost folk-like, renditions of songs like The Fall, written about a serial killer, and The Historian, about how history is written by the winners of the wars. Semple’s vocals and Kovacs’ bass playing really shone throughout the set.
If anyone thought they might have picked up some Rush influences in The Cyberiam’s music, this was all but confirmed as Semple introduced their song The Butterfly Effect. He mentioned that the duo was going to be playing an abridged version and that the full song clocked in at a length of 21 minutes and 12 seconds, a nod to Rush’s classic album 2112. Semple also joked about putting Geddy Lee on the guest list, but that he wasn’t sure if he was actually going to make it to the show that night. This was the heaviest song of their set and saw Semple use an electric guitar instead of the acoustic. The Cyberiam Duo ended their set with a song called Interrogation Room B, which featured plenty of guitar and bass riffing, as well as some magnificent vocals from both musicians, particularly at the end of the chorus leading into the bridge. The pair likely exceeded all audience expectations of the opening act, and hopefully, they can bring the full band with them next time they swing through town.
At 10 pm, the crowd cheered excitedly as the lights dimmed, signaling the beginning of the highly-anticipated Riverside set. The members took the stage one by one, and they gradually built an extended, atmospheric intro into the first song. Keyboardist Michał Łapaj was the first to appear and waved warmly to the crowd before laying down some synths. He was followed closely by drummer Piotr Kozieradzki, and then guitarist Maciej Meller, who each added their own layer. Last but not least was vocalist and bassist Mariusz Duda, who received a passionate round of applause before launching into the bass line for #Addicted, from their 2015 album Love, Fear, and the Time Machine. The band got the crowd singing along to a vocal line towards the end of the song, and the audience kept up this level of energy and enthusiasm for the duration of the show.
6 of the 12 songs Riverside played during their set were from the band’s newest album ID.Entity, released in January of this year. While some fans may have been disappointed, as this left less time for older crowd favorites, it demonstrated the band’s pride and confidence in their latest work, which is a positive sign. Landmine Blast was the first of the new tracks performed, and it showcased the more progressive side of Riverside’s sound. The main groove of the song alternates back and forth between 7/8 and 10/8 time signatures, and the band members expertly navigated the changes. Big Tech Brother was another new song with sections of constantly shifting time signatures, and again, the band made it look and sound much easier than it is.
In a set that was exceptionally well-executed from top to bottom, the band’s performances of Egoist Hedonist, The Depth of Self-Delusion, and Friend or Foe? were some standouts. Egoist Hedonist, from the album Anno Domini High Definition, got one of the loudest crowd reactions of the night when it began. It featured a long and impressive instrumental section, with some electrifying accompanying lighting. Lee’s Palace is not generally known for having the best lighting setup, but Riverside enhanced their show’s visual component by bringing a lighting rig with them. This included four large light diffusers set up along the back wall, as well as a light pointed up at drummer Kozieradzki, all of which added to their show without distracting from the musical performances. When introducing The Depth of Self-Delusion, from the album Shrine of New Generation Slaves, Duda mentioned that the album had recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The extended live version the band played featured some of Duda’s best vocal work of the night, culminating in some powerful sustained vocals at the very end of the song after a climactic full band build. Friend or Foe?, the opening track of the new album, was the song the band selected to close their set (before the obligatory encore, of course). This song was a fun synth-heavy one and leans into the classic prog rock sound. Despite it having a run time of over 7 minutes, it still felt like the poppiest offering from Riverside, and one that could easily appeal to a wide audience.
After watching the Riverside members play for even a few minutes, it’s readily apparent that all four of them are stellar musicians. They possess a high level of technical proficiency in their respective instruments, and the musical intuition to know how and when to use it. Duda’s vocals were incredible throughout the night, and his singing was all the more impressive considering the intricate bass lines he was often playing simultaneously. The song Post-Truth included a short but sweet bass feature, during which the other members got the audience clapping along. Drummer Kozieradzki played with intensity and precision, always holding down the groove, and never overpowering his bandmates or getting in the way of the song. He made sparing use of the double kick, which made it all the more effective when he did choose to use it, such as during the heavier bridge section of the band’s 11+ minute prog opus Left Out. Keyboardist Łapaj had quite an extensive rig of gear on stage with him, including multiple keyboards and a Leslie speaker, and he put all of it to good use. Many Riverside tracks, such as Left Out and Friend or Foe?, make extensive use of synth layers and sequencers, and Łapaj was more than up to the task. Guitarist Meller is the newest addition to the band – he was added to Riverside’s touring lineup following the tragic sudden passing of their original guitarist Piotr Grudziński in 2016, and only became an official member in 2020. He did an admirable job replicating Grudziński’s iconic parts from the earlier material, while also establishing his own voice on the new album. Performances of The Place Where I Belong, and Friend or Foe?, both from the recently released ID.Entity album featured some spectacular guitar solos.
The band’s encore at the end of the night consisted of two songs: Self-Aware, another new song from ID.Entity, as well as the oldest song of the set, Conceiving You, from their 2005 album Second Life Syndrome. Duda once again asked the crowd to sing along during sections of Self-Aware, and they happily obliged. Before beginning Conceiving You, Duda put his hood up, so you knew he meant business, and he got to work laying down some heavy bass riffs. The performance of this final song was extended to include solos by Meller on guitar and Łapaj on keys, both of which were phenomenal. Towards the end of the song, the band brought the volume level down, and Duda solicited some crowd participation in “whisper mode”, which was highly entertaining to watch. In a genre where bands and musicians often take themselves too seriously, it was great to see these guys having fun on stage.
Overall, the Riverside concert at Lee’s Palace was a fantastic night of progressive rock music. The nearly two-hour-long headline set showcased the band’s technical prowess, emotional depth, and creative energy, and demonstrated why they’re still going strong after over two decades together as a band. The audience was completely engaged with their performance from start to finish, often headbanging or singing along. The opening set by The Cyberiam Duo was also a great addition to the bill, as they provided a taste of what was yet to come with their masterfully performed duo renditions of the band’s songs. Check out the band’s tour schedule, and see if you can catch a show near you – this is not a tour to be missed!