Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
Radiohead's set tonight began with turbulence as Yorke stopped the band in the middle of the first song, "Airbag," angrily pointing to the agonized people in the front crushed against the barrier. Guitarist Ed O'Brien chastised the audience on the floor for pushing so hard towards the stage: "Look, if you want us to go we'll fucking go, but we don't want to go, we want to play for you people," he said with genuine regard for the front row. (Fortunately the audience complied, or that would have been it.)
What followed was a psychotropic journey over the Martian terrain of the band's last two albums, OK Computer and The Bends. The thing that Radiohead do better than most is piece together quiet beauty with crushing anguish and alienation in such a way that the stitches don't show. "Just," "My Iron Lung" and "Paranoid Android" were perfect examples of this, as people went from swaying to full-on jumping.
Though, in my section, you couldn't do much leaping or dancing because every time somebody stood up they were vehemently reprimanded by the people behind them. If anybody lingered in front of the barricades they were quickly dispersed by security guards. When the guards were lax, people in my section yelled things like, "Hey, Red Jacket, do your fucking job!!" True blue Radiohead connoisseurs will all but lynch anyone coming between them and their bliss.
(I was amazed by the number of brazen teens who were leaping over the barricades to get to the floor. Every few minutes another one would catapult over in a desperate lunging motion that was one part Namibian track hurdler, three parts spider monkey, willing to risk a forced and unpleasant exile from the building if caught by the paunchy Red Jackets.)
For once, the live sound mix matched the caliber of the band. Every instrument cut through with stunning clarity. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood looked like sixties television character Maynard G. Krebs with bug music hair as he opened his Pandora's box of effects and let loose the power of the universe -- especially during "Planet Telex," where he was definitely four stones from the sun. His keyboard and xylophone work was also stellar. Ed O'Brien is the band's unsung hero. His rhythmic interplay and wild feedback flourishes were the adhesive, particularly when Jonny went ballistic. Together, the two guitarists wove tapestries of notes and chords, creating memorable, timeless breaks. With the added third guitar of Thom Yorke, the effect was nothing short of majestic.
On this evening Yorke's voice was peerless, never cracking or wavering. I have witnessed many of Radiohead's performances, both live and on tape, and none on par with this show. The band went from ballad to balls-out rock with ease. "Exit Music," "Subterranean Homesick Alien," "Just," "Bulletproof" and "Lucky" were the definition of dynamic.
If Radiohead can avoid all the black holes that revolutionary rock bands seem to get sucked into -- creative burnout, drug addiction, primadonna syndrome, the inevitable media backbite -- they will be the band of the millenium, not just the year.
In the wake of their delicious Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space album, Spiritualized was definitely up to the task of firing up the audience. Their opening track, "Cop Shoot Cop...", enveloped us in a hot embrace of pure sound. Keyboards like slippery walls, guitars like columns of flesh, rhythm section like the very motions of intimacy alternating between bucking back arch and slow rolling boil. Jason Pierce's smacked out voice whispering sweet gibberish in our ears. This was the music of sonic seductions. A whole new wing added to the house that Floyd built.
"Cop Shoot Cop..." perfectly segued into the astral slide guitar of "Shine a Light." Theramin freakwaves were the high point of "Electricity," and it was the first time I've witnessed the "invisible instrument" being played since Jimmy Page's spell casting in The Song Remains The Same. I was enraptured by the entire experience: Damon Reese's galloping drum fills, the overlapping guitars, the keyboard depth, and the wailing harmonica and sax. Praise should be gushed all over the lighting techs, as the deep greens and dark purples made us feel as if we were indeed floating in space.
All hail the space truckers.
[Photographer's Note: Radiohead seemed a little tense even before the show started. They did no media during the day, and someone had a big enough pole up their bum to demand that the promoter confiscate all photo passes once shooting was done, which was certainly a first! (No word yet if I'll be sued for taking a picture of mine.) Perhaps this Band of the Decade thing is going to their heads?]
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