This thread is dedicated to discussion of live performances of The River.
One of the earlier definitive King Gizzard songs, and a cornerstone in their jamming abilities, it is currently their fifth most-played song. The River flows like another long road, and the progression of the band itself can be measured not only in the artistic leap it took them to compose it — but how its performances have evolved from re-creating the studio version in the early years, through now to the first hints of purely improvised ‘Type 2’ jams that are recently being attached to it.
The easiest way to find performances is through the link above and then by checking the setlist pages for embedded recordings. If there are none there, you may find one has simply not yet been added from the King Gizzard Live Spreadsheet (thanks @Gizzhenge), where in the vast majority of cases you can manually find it (if a recording is available at all).
In the hope of being able to clearly describe what sets particular versions apart from others, I have done a little analysis.
Please describe the song however you feel is natural, this is by no means definitive but just my way of breaking down the song through repeated listens of the studio version and comparison with how they use it’s structure during live performances:
I’ve come to think of the very first bit of music you hear (‘da nana da na na’ on guitar) as the ‘Brubeck pattern’. It’s basically the musical core of the song, and it’s the part that sounds most like it’s inspiration, Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond’s Take Five, in both melodic shape and rhythm. The intro ends with a satisfied ‘ahhhh’ from Stu.
Part 1 - ‘In the zone’ (0:30-2:49):
This is the first of two lyrical sections, beginning on “Once you’re in the zone”. It sounds bright and bubbly, and it ends after the repetitions of ‘down dowwwn’.
Part 2 - ‘Stone flow’ (2:50-6:17):
This is the main instrumental section. It has a much colder, river-rapids vibe and is usually the basis for live jamming.
It features several distinctive riffs that serve as anchor points in jams, such as when the flow really kicks in at 3:12 with one that has a sort of sprinkling/splashing sound.
Another is the scale-based one at 4:50 that Gizzhendge describes as having the sense of paddling upstream.
The flow ebbs at about 5:10 and these are the parts that often signify the end of live jams, such as the ‘rippling’ sounds at 5:22.
At 5:45, they build suspense for part 3 (‘dananananana…’), then echo the intro by going back into the Brubeck pattern before the vocals start again.
Part 3 - ‘Frozen over home’: (6:18-8:14):
This is essentially a repeat of Part 1 with slightly different lyrics that start with “Frozen over home”. Occasionally Stu has notified the band they are about to enter this section by saying that line off-mic, but in practice, the lyrics from the different parts are often chopped and changed seemingly by whatever comes to mind first, particularly when returning after a longer jam.
Part 4 - ‘Trust in the river’ (8:15-10:10):
The final part serves as an instrumental reprisal and outro. Bass and guitar come together in unison to repeat melodies from vocal lines, such as at 8:40 with the “Trust in the river” lyric. There is another ‘big’ sounding melody at 9:40 that signifies the end of the studio version, but can kick off a solo live.
Is there one definitive performance? Likely not, but let’s sink into the waterfall flow, float down, and find out.