Unleashed – Ollie Wride, back live
December brings a lot of excitement. The dream of snow (for those of us where snow rarely makes an appearance!) advent calendars, new variants.. Anyway! After 2 years away from the stage, the December of 2021 also brought the return of Ollie Wride to the stage. Across 5 days in the early part of this month, supported by Dana Jean Phoenix, Ollie performed 2 solo gigs. The first in the Classic Grand in Glasgow, Scotland and the second at Lafayette in London’s Kings Cross. Fakeman hit both events. Here are some thoughts, some musings, some appreciation of a true showman. Take a seat – We’ve got things to discuss.
Let’s start with DJP. Ever the professional, Dana was brought in at reasonably late notice after the unfortunate news that Nina was not going to be able to provide support for the 2 events. Having seen Dana at a few events now, I was never in doubt that she was going to be a great replacement. The Canadian songwriter burst onto the stage with more energy than the room combined. Setting the mood for the evening, DJP kept the tempo high as she treated us to some of her great hits with some awesome keyboard stills.. Did I hear a little Daft Punk thrown in there for good measure?!
The short but impactful sets were rounded off with a dedication to Nina and the hope from us all that we will see her again very soon.
So.. The main event. First of all, lets be clear – for those of the synthwave persuasion, this isn’t laptops and pre-sets – Ollie has a full band. Joining Ollie on stage were long time friend and collaborator, James Cross on the drums, Elliot Coombes on the lead guitar, Yasmin Ogilvie on the saxaphone (who was a huge fan favourite on the nights!) and James Rookyard on the bass. Collectively they presented some well produced reimagining’s of Ollie’s earlier work as well as the new material that has only been heard in the live context. As collectives go, there was a mighty impressive air of confidence and commitment to the show and Ollie’s vision for what he wanted to present. Congratulations to them all and long may this collaboration continue.
Ollie spends the evening interchanging between stage front and sitting at the piano as he runs us through some of his established solo works, some well-loved collaborations and his new material. The effortless transitions between track presentation and stage set up are akin to the great stage artists of times gone by. Freddie Mercury springs to mind as Ollie’s energy (2 years in the making!) explodes into life.
Both The Classic Grand and Lafayette were very different venues however those differences did little to change the impact of the show. Glasgow’s audience, which was slightly smaller, made for the size with their excitement and the cheers to welcome Ollie and the band back to the stage. Lafayette, a new and impressive venue in London’s King’s Cross was buzzing from the start. The addition of the second floor viewing platform did wonders in really appreciating the light and sound opportunities that the venue provides.. Upstairs is from where I took my spot.
The evening starts with new track ‘Matter of Time’ First performed at the ‘Once in a Lifetime’ livestream, ‘Matter of Time’ is a statement. Springsteen-esque beats play homage to the rock legends of the 70s and 80s for whom Ollie both has a lot of respect for and takes inspiration from. ‘Matter of Time’ is a glimpse at Ollie’s sophomore album and if the track is anything to go by, we are to expect an album true to Ollie’s musical roots and loves.
What followed were renditions of Ollie’s previously released fan favourites ‘Never Live Without You’ and ‘Miracle Mile’., keeping the tempo high and the audiences moving. Smiles were abound as friends enjoyed some of their first gig’s back together after what has been a tough 18 months for all. Acknowledging this, Ollie reminded the audiences that we are always better off together than we could ever be apart. And what a true sentiment it was as people enjoyed the sights and sounds of a gig 2 years in the making.
Slowing it down a little, Ollie introduced one of his new tracks ‘Typecast’. A song of relationship struggles taken at the piano, it was another statement of intent from Ollie. Where often so many gigs find people hitting the bar when new tracks are played, the audience remained in place. A testament to the band’s connection to the audience and Ollie’s presentation of his words.
‘Overcome ‘was next on the list – Another fan sing along before last years huge hit ‘Stranger Love’ (co-written and produced with Edward Gamper, AKA Sunglasses Kid) was given another live treatment. Sax fills and heavy drums brought the track to life in a live setting and did justice to a wonderful piece of collaboration between the two artists.
As the audience soaked up the romantic vibes, Ollie kept it going by dropping us right into ‘Luna’. One of my favourites. It was at this point in the evening that you take stock and realise that through up tempo tracks, new releases, and slower, more melodic ballads, Ollie has kept the audience exactly in the very place they started the evening. They’ve danced, they’ve swayed and they are taken in the atmosphere of what is turning into a very special performance.
The ‘second half ‘of the show is introduced with another new track, ‘Victoria’ that the audience welcome again with open arms. The amount of newer tracks being played was ballsy and impressive but also shows the audiences appetite for new and different material from Mr Wride. From there we are directly lead into ‘Back To Life’. The audience are brought back into the party mode and then thrown in at the deep end of an unexpected cover of ‘Lady in Red’. This faster tempo cover seems to fit very well. I’ll be honest – it’s not one of my favourite tracks however with the reimagining it felt modern and fun. Gusty movie, Wride… Well done.
Just prior to the encore, The band break into ‘Believer’ – another of Ollie’s high energy tracks that shows his impressive vocal range and as it concludes Ollie runs from the stage.. Those whom have seen Ollie live before know what’s coming. His previously hot-pink 2 piece is now replaced with a black and gold suit. Still trying to work out how he manages to do it (i’m sure it’s come close to disaster at some point!) the band breaks into ‘Driver’. The opening track of the last live show is now signalling the final few moments of this one. A poignant decision. The right decision. These past 18 months has clearly given Ollie the time to grow a large and impressive catalogue of new material. ‘Driver’ sounded as fresh as it has ever done but the new material shows that there is so much more to come.
The penultimate track of the evening was ‘Juliette’ – another wonderful story of relationships and ultimatums. Ollie’s songwriting around love lost and love gained is something that has risen to the top for me in terms of my favourite tracks. I hope it’s as cathartic to write and perform as it is a great experience for us as the listener.
As the evening draws to and end.. We are left with really only one final play. One final memory. ‘Running in The Night’. Ollie’s track in collaboration with FM-84 is deemed one of the most successful synthwave songs of all time. And whilst that is wonderful and it’s clear Ollie has a dear place for it in his heart, there was an exchange of words between the audience and Ollie at the end of the evening that suggested that even if he hadn’t played it people would still have been happy and content. My personal opinion is that RiTN, whilst an epic track, is only a small window into the singer/songwriter world of Ollie Wride. It bought guests to his party but all these years later, he continues to keep them happy with his new work to the extent that they don’t want to leave.
As the audience did their final rounds of cheers and claps, it was obvious Ollie found the situation quite emotional. For a man who clearly puts his heart and soul into these twice cancelled affairs, what a moment that must have been. We left that night in the company of friends who all came to see the work of someone whom belongs on the stage. Our mood lifted and being able to head into the week that little more happier for it.
A huge congratulations to James, Elliot, Yasmin and James for their amazing work. Another shout out to the brilliant work of Adam Sullivan on the mixing desk for both evenings – you outdid yourself, my friend. to Stu McLaren for keeping them all going in the right direction over what was 2 excellent evenings and to Dana Jean Phoenix for being the star that she is.
Of course, the biggest congratulations go to Mr Ollie Wride for his hard work and commitment to making some wonderful memories for us all. Not only the most decent bloke you’ll ever meet, but one talented bastard. The world needs singer/songwriters like yourself.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.