March 14, 2012
Ever since seeing Radiohead’s headlining set at Lollapalooza 4 years ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to see them again. The journey to the concert was an experience in itself, we almost missed the show completely due to a flat tire on the way from Peoria to St. Louis. Thankfully, we had some friends nearby in Springfield (Thanks Tyler & Rachel!) who were able to switch vehicles with us, and we made it to our seat at the Scottrade Center with just seconds to spare before Radiohead (unfortunately, we missed opener, Other Lives). It’s a good thing we made it too, the band were in spectacular form, putting on an mind-bogglingly great performance.
Radiohead obviously pulled out all the stops for this tour, the visuals / light show was easily one of the best I’ve seen. The band played in front of a massive LED wall that displayed luminous, multi-colored graphics; high above them was a marquee of screens projecting images of the band; and best of all, there were were several floating LCD panels showing live feeds of the band and repositioning themselves each song. Every song had it’s own visual / color treatment, and the array of screens and panels worked perfectly to synchronize with music. Awesome. I was also very happy with the songs they played, especially after early reports suggested the setlist would consist of King of Limbs / In Rainbows and not much else, seeing a number of my favorite tracks from OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief performed was delighting.
Radiohead began the set with three album-openers: “Bloom”, “15 Step”, and the first big sing-a-long of the night, OK Computer‘s “Airbag”. What struck me from the beginning (when I wasn’t being dazzled by the light show) was how much the band’s sound benefitted from having two drummers on board (Clive Deamer, on loan from Portishead), especially during the syncopated rhythms of “15 Step”. You might expect there to be some difficulty in translating new tracks like tracks like “Little By Little” and “Morning Mr. Magpie” with such experimental tendencies and emphasis on soundscapes to the stage, but they were actually very much improved in the live setting. The band (guitarist Johnny Greenwood in particular) masterfully layered on instruments and sounds, while Thom Yorke’s dynamic falsetto soared over the music.
After tearing through the distorted guitar assalt of “Myxamatosis”, Thom took a seat at the piano for quieter portion of the set, starting with whimsical ballad “Kid A”. The tour debut of In Rainbows closer “Videotape” followed and then a fantastic version of “The Daily Mail”, a track which is sure to become a live favorite. After grooving through one of their most obscure tracks “Amazing Sounds of Orgy”, Radiohead played one of their biggest hits, “Karma Police” (which Celeste reminded me was on the very first NOW! Compilation). The performance was made even more memorable by Thom mixing up some of the lyrics, leading him to quip “No one noticed, right?” and then sing “This is what you get, when you forgeeeeeet the words” during the chorus (it also made the line “For a minute there, I lost myself” oddly appropriate). Despite the lyrical mishaps, or perhaps because of them, the band really knocked the track out the park. Singing along with everyone around me to the outro was an incredible moment.
Radiohead finished off the main set with performances of “Lotus Flower”, complete with an electrifying display of flashing red lights, “There There” with an Johnny and Ed on tom drums, a great new track called “Identikit”, and In Rainbows MVP “Reckoner”. The ovation was near-deafening as the band left the stage shortly, before kicking off the first encore with sublime King of Limbs closer “Separator”, which handily reminded the crowd “if you think this is over, then you’re wrong”. Next played was “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi”, featuring some amazing guitar noodling and percussion and then another tour debut, OK Computer‘s glorious anthem “Lucky”. Thom Yorke sang the first couple lines of R.E.M.’s “Electrolite” before the keyboard line to “Everything In Its Right Place” kicked in, leading to loudest recognition applause of the night and a fully awesome close to the first encore.
Another short break and Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood took came out for a stripped-down version of “Give Up The Ghost”, a track which I usually skip on album but was extraordinary live, Thom’s powerful voice echoing up to the rafters. “You And Whose Army”, the only Amnesiac track of the night, came next, and featured some of the most interesting visuals of the night, with the LCD screens connecting to show an extreme close-up of Thom’s face while he sang (fed from a camera on his mic). The band ended with their most beloved live staple “Idioteque”, which whipped the crowd into a frenzy and let us see some of the Thom’s convulsive, freestyle dancing. As the lights turned a technicolor hue like a TV with no signal, the band left the stage, having put on another exhilarating, life-affirming concert. But really, I’d expect nothing less from the greatest band in the world.
Follow the jump for many more Radiohead photos. Click here for the full set.