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photos by Amanda Hatfield words by Andrew Sacher
Radiohead at Prudential Center - 5/31/12
"We're not ready for the greatest hits yet... when we are we'll be dead," said Thom Yorke during Radiohead's first of two Prudential Center shows last night (5/31), before going into "Identikit," a new song they've been playing on tour. It's things like that which made it clear during their show that Radiohead is like no other rock band with enough stature and fame to play an arena like Prudential Center. Those bands usually do play hit after hit, whereas Radiohead's set focused most heavily on deeper cuts from their two most recent albums and newer, post-TKOL tracks. And while most arena-sized bands project themselves onto massive screens to cater to the far-away fans, Radiohead opts for a series of smaller moveable screens that project grainy images of individual members from carefully planned camera angles in an art-collage fashion. Those screens blended with the band's light show, heightening the atmosphere and, like 2011's divisive The King of Limbs, continued to prove that Radiohead refuse to be jaded by a 20+ year career and that they deliver with the same spirit as the band who wrote those hits they preferred not to play.
Radiohead kicked off their set around 8:50 in front of a backdrop of dripping lights, similar to the lines that obscure the TKOL album art, with the opening track off that album, "Bloom." The band have been known to rotate instruments according to the song, and this one saw them in their traditional "rock band" format with Thom on guitar, but it only took one more song ("15 Step") for Thom to show off those dance moves that anyone who hasn't seen them live before may remember from the zany "Lotus Flower" video. That song started in a dimly lit setting, with a double drum intro and Thom's vocals, but once the guitar kicked in, the band was blasted with light and met with huge cheers from the crowd.
Though I mentioned it wasn't a hits set (and better because of it), it goes without saying that when they played "Karma Police," the crowd gave by far the highest level of participation they'd given all night. Everyone who had been watching the show from their seats stood up, and the entire Prudential Center joined in on vocals, overpowering Thom's own voice. It was like a campfire song (cause you know, "Karma Police" is one of the few Radiohead songs you and your friends can manage on an acoustic guitar) coming to life on a level unimaginable. They followed that with the bass-heavy "Feral," which saw Thom's craziest dancing yet, in front of an equally spastic light show. Then came "Idioteque," the final song of their pre-encore set, and when the heavy drum breaks came in, I'm still not sure if Thom's mic was malfunctioning or if he was intentionally cutting out, but the crowd immediately chimed in, chanting every single word for the remainder of the song.
Radiohead quickly returned for their first of two encores, opening with the only Amnesiac song of the night, "You and Whose Army?" After a couple more, they finished the first encore with their live/dancey rendition of "Everything In Its Right Place." The song, which is generally one of the band's more ambient cuts, was propelled by a relentless bass drum and shakers, and the audience clapped along on every beat. At the end of the song, the band members slowly left the stage, until only Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien were left, continuing to manipulate the song through samplers. Eventually they left too, letting the song exist entirely on its own above an empty stage.
Their second encore began with a stripped down version of the band performing "Give Up The Ghost," and similarly to "Everything In Its Right Place," it ended with Thom's looped vocals harmonizing over each other after he had stepped back from the mic. They followed that with a distorted take on Kid A's "The National Anthem" which saw a rare moment of two distinctly different colored lights hitting the stage at once, and they wrapped things up with "Reckoner."
Unfortunately, I showed up a bit late and missed most of Caribou's opening set, but from what I saw they were killing it as well. Though the crowd had barely filled in yet, Caribou seemed unaffected by it and delivered a solid set of material from their 2010 LP, Swim. I was able to catch them closing the set with the album's two opening songs, the warped pop tune, "Odessa," and an extended version of the choppy dance track, "Sun." Before Radiohead left the stage, they greatly praised the band and thanked them for opening (we already know they're fans).
Radiohead - "Everything In Its Right Place" at Prudential Center 5/31/12
Radiohead - "There, There" at Prudential Center 5/31/12
Radiohead - "Give Up the Ghost" at Prudential Center 5/31/12