The Rising Tide of Ollie Wride
Camden Town tube station – 5:30pm. The escalator takes you upwards towards street level and the cold wind hits your face. Saturday night in Camden is always a busy affair. You dodge the tourists and the street vendors and make your way over Camden Lock. Ahead of you are the Neon Red lights of the Camden Assembly Rooms. Inside, the warmth of the pub is only equal to the warmth of the welcome you get from familiar faces and new friends. Synthwave and electronic music fans have come from France, Germany, Canada and the US and all for one reason. The debut live show of Mr Ollie Wride.
On what was a very busy week for London Synthwave (The Midnight and the Rise of the Synths screening all showing in the preceding few days) Saturday’s crowd in the Camden Assembly are the most excited of the week. There has been a significant amount of anticipation around Ollie’s first debut outing, coming off the back of the release of his solo album ‘Thanks in Advance’ earlier in the year and the room is buzzing with chat and smiles. The Ollie effect is already in motion.
Outland, arguably the most successful of the UK’s synth related event organisers were at the helm of this evening which would also see New Retro Wave artists, Wolf Club supporting in the 350 capacity venue. Outland have featured in this blog on a number of occasions now and I have always had wonderful things to say about their professionalism, their organisation and the quality of the product they output.
On entering the space, which is located above the bar area, it was clear that this was going to be an intimate evening. Wolf Club, who released their third studio album ‘Infinity’ earlier in the 2019, brought some strong energy and it was a great to see the crowd packing the room for their performance. I had seen Wolf Club perform earlier in the year at a much smaller event in Derby and it was clear that the larger crowd and busier venue added to the performance. Steven Wilcoxson’s vocal was welcomed on some classic tracks from the band. They did an excellent job of warming up the crowd and I would be keen to see them headline their own show in the near future. The band’s following (Infinity being the highest selling album in the world on Bandcamp on the first week of release!) more than warrants their own show. Congratulations to the boys.
So the time came for the main event. After many months of promo the inevitable was happening, Ollie Wride was taking to the stage for his own show. The show started with the pumping baseline of ‘The Driver’ as the neon lights behind the stage turned red. Guitarist Josh Daly and Drummer James Cross entered the stage folllowed by Mr Wride.
The Driver was followed by Miracle Mile, Never live Without You and Overcome. Each track including all the aspects of Ollie on stage persona that draws the crowd in. The mic flipping, making eye contact with those in the crowd he recognises and allowing the crowd to take the chorus to each of his tunes, which is catchier than the last.
Up next, and quite importantly, was Rising Tide. Ollie took a seat at a synth towards the back of the stage as the Africa by Toto-esque baseline kicked in. For those that know the track, you will be aware that it requires a considerable amount of vocal range and Ollie did make a small comment as such before the song began. As it came to a close, the vocals were perfect. As the lights went down I turned to someone next to me and muttered the only 2 words I was able to say – ‘fucking hell’. Ollie Wride had arrived in style and he was taking us all on the journey.
Next up came Luna which was then followed by a new surprise track. Ollie announced his recent collaboration with UK Synthwave producer Sunglasses Kid. Stranger Love had all the 80s pop hooks that we have come to expect from SK but with the added element of the live guitar and drums. It was great to see an SK track get that full live band treatment and it resulted in one of the most exciting collabs in the scene for 2019. The crowd reacted fantastically and i’m keen to hear the final studio version.
Then came another surprise as Ollie and the boys broke out Peter Gabriel’s solo hit Sledgehammer. The crowd went insane. The mood of the track was perfect for what was already and immensely fun night and as the track concluded there was a very clear point that came to mind. Those of us in the room were witnessing something very important. Not just for Ollie, but for the scene. We were at one of the most significant events of 2019.
Ollie concluded the event with I’m a Believer before leaving the stage for the encore. What was most impressive at this point was Ollie’s ability to change his outfit in what was no more than 1 minute!
The encore consisted of Back to Life and FM-84 hit Running in the Night. Certainly it was a huge hit with the crowd however what did spring to mind was did Ollie need to play it? The crowd sang every word, however it was clear that they did the same of each of Ollie’s solo works from the album. It was clearly a kindess for Ollie to include the track and it was very well loved and received, however the people I was around certainly felt the evening would have been perfect without it. That being said, it’s a fucking great tune!
So lets get a little bit music scene geeky for a minute, shall we? At the end of the gig I overheard some people discussing the genre of Ollie’s music. The tired question of ‘is it synthwave’ wasn’t specifically asked however my view is simple. Ollie is making the music that HE wants to make. No restrictions, designed to be performed on his feet and with the crowd smiling back at him. It’s polished and professional and it is also clear that Mr Wride takes a lot of time to get each element of the tracks the way he wants them to be. There is a true pride in his work that shines through his music. For me, it not only ‘fits’ the scene but it will expand the fan base and influences that exist. The irony however it that is feels a disservice to suggest that Ollie even needs to ‘fit’ a scene. He doesn’t – And his inevitable success and career will be around long after people stop asking ‘is it 80s enough?’.
So how about that stage persona? Those of us who have met Ollie will all say he’s a gentleman and will always take the time to chat. Mr Wride who dons the suit and hit the wings is comparable to the greatest showmen of pop music. The flare (and range!) of Mercury, the diversity of sound of George Michael. Whilst chatting with Sunglasses Kid after the gig we got talking about Ollie and just this point. SK pointed out that it’s all about how he moves and sings – It’s storytelling in itself. It draws you in and allows you to journey with Ollie through the gig. His brand is on point. His pose IS his logo. All points I 100% agree with.
Last night will stick with many of us for some time. Every person left with a smile on their face and a story to tell. We need gigs like this.
Now you’ll need to excuse me. I have to return some videotapes.