Before I start this review, can I just say isn’t that the lushest lighting rig you’ve ever seen? I just want to dive into those lights and bathe in their glow in a highly pretentious manner.
Unfortunately the light show shown above was only truly unleashed for the final third of the show, due to the inconveniences of the English Summer that never seems to provide us with much heat but always plenty of light to ruin Radiohead’s LED lightshow. Oh and they didn’t play Paranoid Android for Christ’s sake! PARANOID ANDROID!
These were my only two grumbles leaving Victoria park amidst a sea of Radiohead ‘fans’ streaming down the roads leading to Mile End tube station, leaving dozens of motorists humorously stranded and beleaguered in the process.
I do have a third complaint, another slight taint on the event of seeing my favourite band in the flesh for the first time, but I’m not sure whether to attribute it to Radiohead themselves or their supposed fanbase.
It depends I guess on what camp you’re in; there are the “Hits first” group who think Creep is their best work and think everything Radiohead have done in the 21st century is a bit “weird“, they also believe that as they are playing to 40,000 people in a big outdoor venue they are obliged to play their “hits” from the 20th century. Creep, High and Dry, Just, Karma Police and No Surprises please! These people also, in the main, thought Bat for Lashes was a bit strange and ’boring’. The “Hits first” group aren’t very opened minded in the main and only really venture out to see live music at big events such as this. Because its like a day in the park drinking, sunbathing and seeing sum music as well innit?
The “Hits first” group can be identified by a bored demenour and confused, furrowed brow during Amnesiac songs.
Then there are the purists, who admire Kid A and everything that followed it, those who believe that Radiohead have gotten better with age, those who can appreciate the less accessible aspects of the band’s discography. They also respect a bands artistic freedom to play whatever the fuck they want.
The purist can be identified by their handsome, rugged good looks and radiant glow about them.
As you may have guessed by my humourously biased language. I am a purist. But getting back to my point, the third ‘complaint’ was that a significant minority of the 40,000 crowd were bored and unstimulated. Being near the front I expected it to be a bit more lively, but no, I spent large amounts of the gig with one man inparticular in front of me, looking lethally bored, I think he might have blinked during Just, but I’m not entirely sure, may have been something in his eye.
Now, was the crowd being a little dead and the atmosphere being a little dry at times down to Radiohead for not pulling out the crowd pleasers? Or the crowd’ for expecting a band like Radiohead to pander to this belief? Despite my feelings on it being the former, I can emphasise with those who wanted Creep.
And it is how you feel on this issue that decides how you felt about this gig, for me, it was brilliant. Viewing Thom Yorke dance like a crazy 21st century jungle shaman with suitably 21st century visions of doom, global warming, “Free Tibet” and all that. Is something to be experienced in the flesh, as well as his hauntingly beautiful voice and sense of humour as he peered down a camera placed by his piano, eyeballing the crowd.
Seeing Johnny Greenwood literally thrash into his guitar one moment, retiring into a darker corner of the stage the next. This time to fiddle with some complicated looking piece of machinery, producing atonal blips and ambient hums before finally emerging once again into his awkwardly held spotlight to play his guitar once again, but this time with a violin bow Dazed and Confused stylee, is utterly fascinating.
The other ‘supporting’ members of Radiohead are all recognisably them and for me at least, it’s hard to comprehend it is them, Ed O’Brien is just, well, noticeably tall and cheerful. Colin lurks by Phil at the back of the stage, utterly enveloped in his role as the unsung hero that drives so many Radiohead classics’ along, his constant, ecstatic waving of a shaker is a cruel teaser for someone such as me who is waiting for it to be used for that understated opening to Paranoid Android that never arrived. But I’ll forgive him as he seems a nice bloke and his bass lines make Airbag and provided one of the all too rare roars from the crowd with The National Anthem.
Phil Selway was unfortunately blocked from view by Thom Yorke or Thom Yorke’s piano from where I stood, but I bet he was wearing a suit and looking ridiculously sharp whilst playing the drums.
Once darkness finally descended the light show became a mildly religious experience when combined with the aural onslaughts of Airbag and Planet Telex, even for an ardent Atheist, as I imagine most Radiohead fans are. As adverts for carbon neutral lighting goes it’s a pretty good one.
Thom’s vocal peak in Nude was stunning, Greenwood’s riffs in Airbag devastating, How to Disappear Completely; hauntingly beautiful. Just beautifully raucous and Idioteque surprisingly anthemic and funky. I could go on forever, I could write a more coherent review, but I’m shit at writing about live events, so this pseudo stream of conscious rambling is all you’re going to get from me.
Just a final note to Radiohead.
More intimate venues next time please so we can enjoy your wonderful light show.
1. 15 Step
3. All I Need
4. National Anthem
5. Pyramid Song
8. The Gloaming
9. Dollars & Cents
10. Faust Arp
11. There There
13. Climbing up the Walls
15. Everything in its Right Place
16. How to Dissapear Completely.
21. Planet Telex
22. The Tourist
23. Cymbal Rush
24. You And Whose Army