Through no fault of their own, Radiohead has become an “important band.” The pedestal that fans put the band on reaches into the stratosphere, and their every move and each infrequent release is meticulously picked apart and closely observed. The amazing thing is that they routinely exceed expectations. I think that most will agree that The King Of Limbs was a small misstep, and “Bloom” still has the feel of a sequencer falling down a circular staircase while the extremely languid “Give Up The Ghost” was an odd choice to start the encore. So yeah, the jury is still out with that record but the rest of their canon was celebrated in a most magnificent fashion, with the low-key songs of A Moon Shaped Pool really hitting the mark. Opening with “Daydreaming” was a really good choice once you got past the fact that Thom Yorke matriculated from the Elaine Benes school of dance. No one embraces the ‘dance like no one’s watching’ ethos quite like Thom.
The set list was massively different from the first night’s and that is exactly what double-dippers were hoping for. Single show attendees didn’t have it as good. While some were grousing that “Karma Police” didn’t played, the others were having similar thoughts about “Paranoid Android.” But let’s look at the numbers – each show had 25 songs and there were only six repeats. Even for a jam band, that’s a pretty incredible spread over two nights. Given Radiohead’s evolution, it’s hardly surprising for them to be that fearless in their approach to live shows and this weekend was one for the ages.
The clear highlight of the night was “Paranoid Android,” and when the song began with Yorke’s calmly picked acoustic guitar lines, the crowd’s anticipation was palpable. We were all in on it; the slow but inexorable climb to the moment when all the guitar amps are turned, Tufnel-style, to eleven and rips the building apart. Hugely satisfying. The inclusion of a rare B side (“Talk Show Host”) appealed to the obsessives, while the more casual fans reveled in “Lucky” and “Idioteque.” For the second and final encore, I had to laugh a bit at Yorke’s vocal take on “The Bends.” If that’s not an arena-ready full-on rock anthem, then The Who wrote disco pop but the way Yorke lazily slid into the verses suggested a bit more ennui than usual with reliving the past. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “Creep” rarely gets played. And that’s okay. This weekend was a perfect example of why.
Johnny Greenwood pulled double duty tonight, sitting in with Shye Ben-Tzur and The Rajasthan Express to start things off. A curious meld of Indian, Jewish and Urdu lyrics all fueled via qawwali, a form of Sufi music that will put a smile on anyone’s face who is in listening range. The sheer exuberant joy that emanated on stage was a sight to behold, with brass, guitar, percussion and harmonium all secondary to the brilliantly jubilant vocals that carried the music to great heights.
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