Live Review: Mark Gardener, Underground Lovers, Sky Parade

6 August 2012 | 2:08 pm | Chris Familton

Touring as backing band for Mark Gardener has its benefits when you can also open the show with your own set as did Los Angeles' Sky Parade. Their set didn't start well with a bad mix and a sparse early crowd but as the sound improved and the room filled they found their way with some dark psychedelic guitar rock in the vein of Spiritualized and Brian Jonestown Massacre. When they upped the intensity of the music they were a much more interesting band and by set end they no doubt left mental notes in some punters heads to investigate them further.

Underground Lovers reformed a few years ago but activity since then has been sporadic. Their absence from the stage hasn't dulled their chops though as they set about playing a cross section of songs from their '90s career plus a new one that was one of the best of the night. It featured a watertight krautrock groove and a contrasting untethered chorus. Your Eyes betrayed some Madchester influences while the epic Eastside Stories was a churning psych trip that sounded like a Sonic Youth/The Clean soundclash and featured some great guitar playing from Glen Bennie.

Mark Gardener's tour was touted as a celebration of twenty years since the release of Ride's seminal album Going Blank Again but as some hoped he didn't play the album in its entirety. Instead we got a selection of tracks from it and its predecessor Nowhere plus some of Gardener's solo work. Sky Parade admirably filled the role of backing band but there was no way they could conjure up that euphoric sonic rush that Ride mastered so well. Too often they felt like restrained onlookers, only given the chance to really shine on tracks like Chrome Waves, Vapour Trail and the sway and shimmer of In A Different Place. For Gardener's newer material, that included his recently released collaboration with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, there was polite applause but everyone was there to hear the Ride songs and none of his recent material touched that band's brilliance. He left us with the epic Leave Them All Behind that came the closest to connecting 1992 nostalgia and the present moment with its rolling bass and woozy effect-laden guitars pushing the song into the aether. Sure it was great to hear Ride songs played again but the spectre of a covers band permeated the performance making it hard to really lose oneself in the music.