Everybody has that one band that means a little something extra in his or her lives. Mine has been Radiohead for quite some time, when I got my hands on an import My Iron Lung EP back in 1994. Sure I had already owned Pablo Honey, as did many adolescent males, thanks to their single “Creep,” but it was that one particular EP prior to the release of The Bends that sent my love for that band into a whole new orbit.
Each time I’ve had the opportunity to catch one of their live shows, which now is at a total of seven, I’ve witnessed a different incarnation of Thom Yorke and his insanely talented bandmates. Watching that dark underbelly of the music from OK Computer straining the inner workings of the band made for one of the most intense concerts I have ever attended. The fuzzed out bass during “Climbing Up The Walls” was like a kick to the stomach, but in the most glorious way. During their US tour for Kid A and Amnesiac, Yorke seemed to begin embracing the act of being a frontman, dancing around during tracks such as “Idioteque.” During their pre-In Rainbows theater tour, it was fascinating watching the band treat their live show as a laboratory to test out new material.
For last night’s performance, the final night of the band’s first leg of their support tour for In Rainbows, Radiohead was in full arena rock mode. They were unbelievably polished, adding cool new nuances to old classics, giving Ed O’Brien much more time in the guitar spotlight than I’ve seen in the past. As a kid who grew up in the Dallas area, I had attended many shows at Starplex/Smirnoff/Superpages.com Center/whatever the fuck you want to call it now, and normally the sound is pretty miserable, but this was most definitely not the case last night. Radiohead’s sound crew was able to turn that turd of a PA into something glorious, with guitars snarling as Yorke’s voice soared over the springtime breeze that flowed throughout the sold-out crowd.
Most diehard Radiohead fans have already seen photos of the band’s new stage setup, featuring these odd long poles that go from the stage floor to the ceiling, each containing various colored lights synchronized with the rest of their elaborate visual display. Behind the band was a long rectangular screen, projecting images of the band members, at times with the effect of what looked like a television running on a bad antenna, offering interference and a scrolling picture. It looked mighty amazing.
The music festivities from the band included a perfect blend of old and new, kicking things off with “All I Need,” “There There” and “15 Step.” By the time we got to “The National Anthem,” for some reason the mood and atmosphere really picked up in the crowd, Yorke in fine form while Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood supplied plenty of artful noise. “Dollars And Cents” had a whole new edge to it last night, and I am almost confident that their performance of “Videotape” was the finest I’ve heard yet. Once again O’Brien laid down some fascinating guitar atmosphere while Phil Selway blended his drumming in with the programmed beats perfectly. It was much more climactic on stage than the studio version turned out.
One song that I had definitely not expected last night was “A Wolf At The Door,” the final track off their previous full-length album Hail To The Thief. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with that track, but holy shit was it something special last night. Yorke gave his vocals an extra bit of fire, and the whole song felt as if it had a new life. It was definitely one of the finest moments of the evening. “Reckoner” came across beautifully on stage, with Jonny Greenwood able to bounce from percussion to guitar and keyboards without blinking an eye. I was curious how it would sound without the lush orchestration on the recorded version, and it sounded just as brilliant on stage. This one remains one of my all-time favorite tracks. The first set then concluded with “Everything In its Right Place,” “Idioteque” and “Bodysnatchers,” then retreating for a very brief break before the first encore.
Radiohead reappeared on stage just minutes later, offering the band a true classic, “Fake Plastic Trees.” No matter how many times I’ve seen this band perform that track, it never, ever grows old. Another shocker was their performance of “Exit Music (For A Film),” which still sends chills down my spine. They concluded the first encore with “The Bends,” reminding me how brilliant of a guitar ROCK band they were back in 1995. I love the various directions that these musicians have taken their sound over the years, but it is always nice to revisit those noisier days.
The lads did come back on stage for a second encore, wrapping up this unbelievable evening with “You And Whose Army” and “Paranoid Android.” They have once again proved that they are one of the top live bands on the planet, able to produce so many amazing sounds and textures, all with unmatched procession that most bands are incapable of doing even in a recording studio. For those of you who will be catching Radiohead on their second leg of the North American tour, I can assure you that the band has never sounded better. You will be in for an unforgettable treat. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway, thank you for another amazing evening of music.
05.18.08 – Dallas, TX
“All I Need”
“Bangers and Mash”
“The National Anthem”
“Dollars and Cents”
“A Wolf At The Door”
“Everything In Its Right Place”
“Fake Plastic Trees”
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place”
“House of Cards”
“Exit Music (For A Film)”
“You and Whose Army?”