MARK GARDENER + Goldrush @ Main Hall

By Louis Rozza - Hooked On Sonics - 12/06/2005

Former Ride singer/guitarist Mark Gardener made his way to Montreal for the first time in his career, touring in support of his first solo album These Beautiful Ghosts, released on the NYC-based label UFO. It is hard to believe that he never performed in the city, considering that his former band was one of the most popular bands of the shoegazer era of the early 90’s. Based out of Oxford, England, Ride were one of a kind, releasing some of the best music of that time and ultimately disbanding in 1995. It has been ten long years for Mark Gardener; he had sporadically collaborated with other bands over that time and he did a bit of solo touring here and there, but this marks his full return to the music scene. I always considered Gardener the key member of Ride and have been waiting patiently for any new material from him. At the same time, I have watched his former writing partner in Ride, Andy Bell, release two solid albums with his now-defunct Brit-Pop band Hurricane #1, and play bass in Oasis since 1999.

Opening tonight was Goldrush, who double as Gardener's backing band and play on the album. They are a really cool Oxford band that take a bit of Ride, but add their own texture, mixing shoegazer and country rock to some fine results. They played an inspired set, and some of their songs were very climactic and built into a nice wall of sound.

As Mark Gardener took the stage, I couldn’t help feeling excited that I could finally see one of my musical heroes live. I was curious to see what his voice and music would sound like, since I only bought the album at the show and did not have a chance to listen to it beforehand. He started the set by thanking the audience for coming out on a Tuesday night and proceeded to play the first song on the album Snow in Mexico. As he continued to play songs from the album, I could sense how good the album must be. The songs were intimate and reflective, the sound reminiscent of Ride’s underrated 1994 album Carnival of Light. Toward the middle of the set he stopped, thanked the crowd again and said that the next song would be from a “little indie band I used to play in” and proceeded to play “Taste” taken from Ride’s best album, 1990’s Nowhere. I could see and hear the audience get excited over this and it sounded amazing, just like it sounded on record. Later he played one of my all-time favorite songs, “Vapour Trail”, also taken from Nowhere. This was one of the best pre-Christmas presents I ever had; I was hoping he would play some Ride songs, but never thought I would hear this one live. Near the end, Mark was presented with a surprise birthday cake, and Goldrush started to play "Happy Birthday" as the crowd sang along. He seemed a bit taken aback by the gesture, thanking everyone and inviting the crowd to stay after the set for “a piece of cake and a chat”. All in all, a great night.

[Tune in to HOOKED ON SONiCS every Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm.]