Ladies and Gentlemen, those Radiohead kids can experiment all they want with that new fangled electronica toy they recently discovered; however, last night's Red Rocks show saw the resurgence of the Rock. Make no mistake Radiohead brought along their new bells and whistles, only they strategically interspersed them with a plentiful amount of their predecessors. I can say with every degree of certainty, you'll not see a better
show this year. Clocking in at just under two hours with a twenty-two song set spanning the bulk of their catalog, in this recession prone economy, you'll be hard pressed to get a better value. It's worth every cent you'll fork over-and then some.
On the second night of their first American tour in over three years, the setting couldn't have been more picturesque. If you've never seen a show at Red Rocks, rent "U2: Live
Under a Blood Red Sky" to use as a reference. Red Rocks is an all natural amphitheatre
literally carved into the side of a mountain, by God himself. Let me put it this way, it's a
venue that artists plan entire tours around. Suffice to say the experience was somewhat
surreal, with Radiohead providing the soundtrack for the evening.
Radiohead took the stage at dusk with the Denver city lights flickering in the distance.
From the opening notes of "National Anthem," it became quite apparent that on this
night, they came to play. After all, they had three years of catching up to do. The band
meticulously worked their way through a spirited rendition of what is arguably one of Kid
A's best songs. With the giant projector screen positioned stage right, showing black
and white, live motion video and the alternating strobe lights ala MTV's the ten spot, deja
vu began to set in. Except this time, the world's greatest band was in the flesh, not on
the idiot box.
During the opening verses of "The Morning Bell," guitarist Johnny Greenwood stood
back with one arm folded across his chest, while Thom Yorke exhibited his musical
prowess on a Rhodes keyboard. Greenwood's befittingly stacato stabs during the
chorus of an otherwise subdued track contrasted Yorke's and guitarist Ed O'Brien's
harmonies very nicely. Judging from the uproarious applause that greeted the band as
the song ended, the fans agreed, Radiohead was back and better than ever.
Like storm clouds rolling in, the fog machine made the first of many appearances over
the course of the evening. Just as the next song, "Lucky," began to take shape, it
became obvious what songs the crowd favored. "Karma Police" began with Greenwood
minding the Rhodes and Yorke trading in his Telecaster for an acoustic. It ended with
Yorke repeating the lines, "I hope you choke, I hope you choke," as a capacity crowd of
roughly 10,000 sang along, word for word.
In a brief digression while introducing "Exit Music," an unusually exuberant Yorke
quipped, "The clouds are interfering with my signals." For dramatic effect, the song
started with Yorke engulfed by a lone spotlight, as he strummed his acoustic. As the
other instruments came in, one by one each member of the band was illuminated. Then
as if on cue, a series of strobes were lit in sync with the apex of the song, until the lights
dimmed one by one, leaving Yorke again strumming his acoustic under a lone spotlight.
"This is a song about car accidents" Yorke mused coyly, as he introduced the first song
of the night from Amnesiac, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box." Ever since I'd
first heard the new record, I wondered how the new songs would translate live.
Surprisingly, the songs sounded even more emphatic. The brooding, trance-like tones
from the album's opening track sounded even more menacing live with a dirty clavichord
vibe. Yorke's eerie fascination with car crashes showed up once again when he
introduced "Airbag," as a "Christmas song about a car crash." The band turned in a
performance that was painstakingly exact to the original album cut.
During the rarely played "Permanent Daylight," from the Iron Lung EP Yorke entertained
the crowd with Angus Young-esque rock kicks before the band effortlessly sequed into a
dirge-like version of "No Surprises" complete with Greenwood adding ambient contours
with the xylaphone.
Throughout the duration of "Dollars and Cents" my attention was diverted to the screen
at stage right. For the first time during the course of the evening the black and white
images were replaced with color ones. The camera angles were less prominent and
the images were given a soft focus ala a '70s stag film. When I focused back to the
stage, Yorke was gyrating like only he could, beating a tambourine like it owed him
Next up was an absolutely amazing version of "Fake Plastic Trees" that seamlessly
commingled with a stellar rendition of "I Might Be Wrong." The interplay between O'Brien
and Greenwood's guitar work and Yorke's lucid falsetto, easily made it one of the stand
out tracks of the evening, an evening where every track seemed to be a stand out track.
Another of the stand out tracks of the evening was "Pyramid Song" which again was
given a different treatment than what appeared on the album. A rather sedate Colin
Greenwood accompanied Yorke's piano playing with a cello.
The rest of the set was devoted to their most innovative material. From the shifting
dynamics and audio schizophrenia of "Paranoid Android," to the digitized vocals of
"Everything In It's Right Place," expertly replicated live, with the help of O'Brien and
Greenwood manipulating the samples of Yorke's vocals. Before finishing the set, Yorke
paced the stage like Ozzy, inciting the audience to clap on cue.
With that, the band left the stage clapping, as if to acknowledge their brilliant
performance. When they returned a short time later, they treated the crowd to some
rarely heard material from their back catalog, and a stoic rendition of "You and Whose
Army," complete with Yorke on piano, and Colin Greenwood on cello.
Tasked with the dubious distinction of being a music critic, there's very few shows that I
go to of my own volition. This was one of them. If this show was any indication of things
to come-trust me on this one-Radiohead is on the verge of becoming bigger than U2
and almost as influential as The Beatles.
1. National Anthem
2. The Morning Bell
4. Karma Police
5. Exit Music (For A Film)
6. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box
8. Permanent Daylight
9. No Surprises
10. Dollars and Cents
11. Fake Plastic Trees
12. I Might Be Wrong
13. Pyramid Song
14. Paranoid Android
16. Everything In It's Right Place
18. Street Spirit
19. You and Whose Army
20. How To Disappear Completely
21. Talk Show Host
22. My Iron Lung
Source: Dave Herrera hybridmagazine.com