Due to a stroke of luck, along with the help of a very good friend, I was able to score a last minute pair of tickets to see the opening night of Radiohead's North American tour last night in Philadelphia. This marked the fourth time I have witnessed the brilliance of this outstanding band live, twice in Texas, once in New York and now in Pennsylvania. As a fan since Pablo Honey, especially after the release of the My Iron Lung EP, I have watched this quintet continue to grow and change, always keeping a few surprises up their sleeves. Last night proved that Radiohead is still just as brilliant as ever.
After making a mad dash out the door from work yesterday afternoon, we hitched a ride with a co-worker and bolted down the turnpike headed for the City Of Brotherly Love. A little more than two hours later we pulled into the parking area near the Tower Theatre, the venue where the night's festivities were taking place. Seeing Thom Yorke, Jonny & Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway in a theatre rather than an arena was truly a treat, something I haven't experienced since they performed at the Dallas Music Hall during their OK Computer tour.
The lights dimmed at precisely 9pm, finally giving us a glimpse at their stage setup. Suspended above the stage were ten screens, resembling pieces of broken glass. The lights turned to red as the band stepped out, beginning with "You And Whose Army." As Thom sang the opening lines - "Come on, come on, you think you drive me crazy," close-ups of his face were projected onto the screens, as the crowd pretty much went apeshit. It was fucking glorious. Wasting no time, they rocketed straight into "The National Anthem," with Collin's fuzzed out bass rattling the walls. Keeping the momentum going, Jonny was given the spotlight as the blazed through "2+2=5."
It takes a brave band to test out several new songs in front of a very devoted audience. We were treated to several brand new tunes last night, including "Open Pick." O'Brien is returning to a much more important role with the new tunes, providing strong backing vocals and much more highlighted guitar work. This song shows the band dabbling back in guitar driving rock, which is a promising sign of things to come on their next album.
Another big surprise was their live arrangement of "Kid A." Stripping away the vocal effects, we finally get to really hear the great vocal melodies that were a little robotic on the album version. During the instrumental passage it was time for Yorke to get his dance on. This would not be the last time we'd see his flailing arms boogie. It really is great seeing him, along with the rest of the band, enjoying their time on the stage more and more with each tour.
Obviously I could go on and on with this review, as the band performed a total of twenty-three songs last night. From the new tune "Nude" to crowd favorites "Street Spirit" and "Pyramid Song," their main set was just about perfect. A personal highlight for me was "There There," which just seemed to rock a bit more than the last time I saw them at Madison Square Garden. As the layers of vocals and Jonny's guitar thrashing built to an insane climax, it really felt like the roof was going to blow off the Tower Theatre. There it was, Radiohead doing what they do best.
For the first encore, the band exploded into "Airbag", with Selway's drumming precision keeping them right on track. Radiohead's rhythm section of Ed and Colin are criminally overlooked at times. Those guys are the heartbeat of the band, lurking in the back behind Thom, Jonny and Ed. After performing "No Surprises" and new tune "Bodysnatchers," encore number one ended with the always breathtaking "Everything In Its Right Place." As the band walked off stage to a roar of thunder and cheers, the words "Ever and Ever" were scrolling on the screens behind them.
The fans were not leaving without one more encore, which we got in the form of "4 Minute Warning" and "Karma Police." As my all-time favorite band, I really can't express in words how fantastic last night's performance truly was. Seeing a band of this magnitude in a somewhat smaller venue on the opening night of their 2006 US tour was incredible. The mix of songs from most of their albums was just right, although I was sort of hoping to hear "Climbing Up The Walls." The old tunes sound as good as ever and the new ones definitely did not disappoint.
Radiohead has proved to me once again that they are the best live band on the planet. If you got tickets to any of their upcoming dates, you are in for one hell of a treat!
Radiohead @ The Tower Theatre
"You And Whose Army"
"The National Anthem"
"House Of Cards"
"Bangers N Mash"
"Everything In Its Right Place"
"4 Minute Warning"