Thom Yorke Brings His Beautiful Storm to Denver

Thom Yorke at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.EXPAND
Thom Yorke at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
Jon Solomon
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Opening for Thom Yorke, the brilliant London-based cellist Oliver Coates said his calm set would “pave the way for the beautiful storm that is to come.”

And “beautiful storm” perfectly encapsulated Yorke’s sold-out Tuesday night show at Denver's Paramount Theatre with longtime producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich, who manned his laptop for a majority of the night, occasionally jumping on guitar while visual artist Tarik Barri provided stunning visuals.

Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich.EXPAND
Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich.
Jon Solomon

The two-hour electronica-heavy set, made up of Yorke’s solo work outside of Radiohead, was superb, with each track feeding effortlessly into the next, almost like he was a DJ performing for a crowd that didn't always know how to respond. Some fans looked around, maybe scanning the room to see if other people were dancing; others looked to Yorke for inspiration.

Yorke's dancing was spazzy at times, as he bounced around in his white Reebok sneakers; some fans mimicked the move. While the Paramount Theatre provided space for people to dance, most just bobbed their heads, put into a trance by Yorke and Godrich’s music.

There were bursts of energy during build-ups in “Default,” a song from Yorke's less-famous band, Atoms for Peace, where the crowd got fired up, but mostly people were focused on the music, the visuals and Yorke's enigmatic performance rather than expending extra energy to try to dance. 

Yorke and Radiohead have been delving into electronic music since 2000’s Kid A, which was quite the departure from the band’s previous three albums, but Yorke’s voice melds quite well with electronica, so much so that the lyrics almost take a back seat. Not to belittle Yorke’s lyrics, but at times his words evoke the dadaist cut-up technique where one line feels disconnected from the next.

Opener Oliver Coates.EXPAND
Opener Oliver Coates.
Jon Solomon

Sure, one could spend countless hours trying to decipher the man’s cryptic musings — and there have probably been dissertations written on them — but is it worth it? Maybe a better tactic is letting his words just wash over you, picking up snatches of images or thoughts, processing them as you can and not over-analyzing what he’s trying to say, particularly in the live setting, where Yorke’s voice had an instrument-like quality, blending in seamlessly with what Godrich was doing on the laptop.

Yorke has a knack for imagery, sometimes abstract, leaving his lyrics open for interpretation. A good portion of the set drew from his solo albums, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and The Eraser and newer unreleased material, as well as two Atoms for Peace cuts, and he ended the night with “Suspirium,” from the soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the horror film Suspiria.

Throughout it all, Yorke, Godrich and Betti did in fact create a beautiful storm — and the crowd nodded along. 

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