Thom Yorke apparently has no idea where he is right now. "Wassup," he intones after a lively rendition of "Morning Mr Magpie," a decidedly jittery track from King of Limbs. "Where are we? Where the fuck are we? We're on the ground somewhere, near the mountains somewhere." Wherever it is that he thinks he is at the moment, one thing's clear: He's positively overjoyed to be here, present in this moment. We're five songs in at the 1STBANK Center, and Yorke has been tripping the rave-light fantastic for the better part of the set, dancing like his very soul depends on it.
Truth be told, it's a refreshing sight to see. For a guy whose inherent stoicism allows you to reasonably infer that he's some sort of tightly wound, terminally unfun intellectualist in real life, so far he's shown himself to be just the opposite. In fact, if you knew nothing else of Yorke, his banter over the course of the evening would lead you to believe that he's fun-sized and fluent in dudespeak. After "Staircase," the next song, for instance, he reveals that he was kidding with that whole "where are we" business earlier:
"I mean, I, like, know we're outside Denver," he notes. A couple songs later, he declares that "It's all good," apropos of nothing, and before the night is over, he will proclaim that he and the band intend to both "pick this mother up a bit" and "rip shit up." To add to the levity, he appeared on stage this evening dressed from the waist up like one Mr. Theodore Logan, fresh off the plane from San Dimas.
What's more, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and flanked by Ed O'Brien, who is at least nine feet tall, and himself clad in a henley-and-derby combo similar to the one the Edge fancied on the Joshua Tree tour, Yorke could just as easily be mistaken for bizarro Bono being channeled by your slightly emaciated septuagenarian grandma. As patently absurd as that may seem, and although their sounds are entirely different, this is actually a fairly apt comparison, as Yorke and O'Brien, who frequently harmonize with each other, display the same sort of casual interplay with each other as Bono and the Edge.
You have to wonder, really, if anyone else has even noticed or given any thought to such absurdities, as there is absolutely no shortage of captivating eye candy to vie for your attention. From the moment Radiohead opens the show in front of a towering, two-story wall of LEDs, with giant flat screens simultaneously descending from the ceiling and pointed every which direction, like a deck of cards tossed indiscriminately in the air and gently floating back down to earth, until the band eventually finishes nearly two hours later with "Idioteque," backdropped by Day-Glo-colored psychedelic fractals, it's like a giant Windows Media Player visualizer (or "like jelly beans, the ugly ones," as one fella astutely observes during "Codek").
And as the music twists and turns, the visuals follow suit. During "Bloom," the blue-green hue and aquatic pattern evoke the sensation of being under water, fitting for a song that makes references to jellyfish and the ocean blooming. Elsewhere during the set, the spectrum of colors matches the mood, and the visuals range from soothing to erratic, with Matrix-like displays that conjure twitchy, nerve-damaged Times Square scrolls. As Yorke and company soldier through their set, which itself veers from subdued moments of tranquility to manic blasts of bludgeoning bass lines, they keep their light man busier than a Galaga junkie with a backpack full of quarters.
While dyed-in-the-wool Radiohead devotees would have you believe that this set is as flawless as it is transcendent, those fans are likely the ones who picked up on the band in the post-OK Computer age, who not only fully appreciate the more glitch-tastic years, but prefer them. There's a great many of those folks on hand tonight, and they're all beside themselves with glee. Early in the set, a dude standing next to us turns to his lady friend and taps his arm like he's giving himself a fix and then glances over at the stage and back at her and then rolls his eyes and feigns getting high.
For the rest of us, while few would legitimately cop to having any complaints whatsoever with the setlist, especially being as starved as we've been for live Radiohead over the years, truth is, our hearts race a little more when Radiohead pulls out the older tunes like "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" and "Karma Police," the latter of which is delivered in a notably languid and laconic version tonight. With that in mind, there are at least a few moments, particularly during the more down-tempo numbers like "Codex," during which the energy level dips a little more than we would like it to.
Just the same, the diversity adds a distinctive contrast to the set, and by the end of the pair of encores, with back-to-back "Myxomatosis" and "Idioteque," well, let's just say their light guy earns his keep -- and how. One of the techs informs us after the set, when we ask to peek at the setlist, that the guys decided to switch things up a bit and swapped songs that were originally on the setlist for others that they presumably pulled out on the fly.
While the entire encore section proves to be stellar, the high point comes at the beginning of the second encore when at first just Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood return to the stage for a mesmerizing rendition of "Give Up the Ghost," which features Yorke plucking an acoustic and harmonizing with himself via loops. From here, Radiohead indeed rips shit up, as promised, and closes out the night with Yorke doing his trademark bobblehead sway before embarking on another spastic sideways shuffle, from one side of the stage to the other, stopping long enough to bow briefly and then making his exit, as "Idioteque" devolves into a delightful heap of drones and squelches.
Page through for Critic's Notebook, Radiohead setlist, a short review of Other Lives' set from Tom Murphy, audio clips of Yorke's banter and more photos
Personal Bias: Although I disliked it when it first came out, OK Computer now ranks among my favorite albums of all time. Likewise, I cared very little for Kid A, Amnesiac, et al, but have since warmed up to them, as well. Random Detail: The band has enlisted an extra drummer on this tour, which, while symmetrical and all (they're both bald and face each other), kind of seems like one drummer too many, really. By the Way: The last time I saw Radiohead was in 2001 at Red Rocks with the Beta Band, one of the best shows of my life. This show was really good, but that show was just this side of a religious experience.
Radiohead 1STBANK Center - 3.13.12 Broomfield, CO
Bloom Little By Little National Anthem The Gloaming Morning Mr Magpie Staircase Separator Codex Nude Karma Police The Amazing Sounds of Orgy Bodysnatchers Feral Lotus Flower Reckoner Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Weird Fishes / Arpeggi There There (The Boney King of Nowhere) Lucky True Love Waits Everything In Its Right Place
Give Up the Ghost Myxomatosis Idioteque
Page through for Other Lives review, clips of Yorke's banter and more pics
Other Lives opened the proceedings arrayed like the core members of an orchestra without a conductor. Tendrils of smoke emanated from an unseen source and disbursed in drifting sheets of fog overhead. Jesse Tabish told us the outfit was "Other Lives from Oklahoma" and went into a handful of the band's dusky, contemplative, almost elegiac pop.
With a hint of Americana in the presentation and melodic inflections, Other Lives provided a haunted introduction to the show ahead. Songs like "As I Lay In My Head" and the title track to its' 2011 album, Tamer Animals, gave a sense of travelling through mist-enshrouded prairie. Tabish leaned over his keyboard attentively at points and the urgency in the performance of the music was a subtle turn on songs that are both gorgeously introspective, melancholy and expansive.
At the end of the set, Tabish graciously thanks us and thanked Radiohead, who he said would "blow your minds out." Even though it was only a half hour of music from Other Lives, it seemed like more than a few people in the crowd were familiar with the act's music and cheered enthusiastically at the set's conclusion. -- Tom Murphy
Click through for clips of Thom Yorke's banter and some more pics.
"Wassup? Where are We?"
"I mean, I, like, know we're outside of Denver."
"The Amazing Sound of Orgy"
The clip above comes during the intro to "The Amazing Sound of Orgy." It's a little harder to hear, but basically Yorke points out how the group wrote the song "so long ago I can't remember. It was about the collapse of the banks, about reading about it might happen any time. At least ten years ago. I forgot about the song until I came into rehearsals and said I think we should do this song. It makes sense now."
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