Radiohead began tour, broke out rarities (review from Miami, setlists, videos)
Radiohead kicked off their tour on Thursday night (3/31) at Miami's American Airlines Arena. Here's a detailed report from Kerry Jones with setlist and more pics, below...
Fiona Apple tantalized and purified my soul, eyes, ears in 2012 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I realized it had been the most inspiring display of art genius I’d seen in my then 28 ish years on Earth. Last night blew the roof off it.
Radiohead curate the entire experience of this live show; every last detail subtly whispers creative control and purposeful generosity. As I enter the enormous American Airlines arena, after being ushered up two sets of escalators to my mediocre seat, vertigo sets in from steep height, along with awe. The stagnant stage lights cast a foreboding cerulean hue, and eerie, otherworldly synth creates an alternate reality enveloping all visitors. I sit in my very high seat, alone, giggling uncontrollably. I am about to see Radiohead.
Along with all of both the human and robot worlds, I had attempted the feat of securing tickets to this most coveted event, for the New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami dates the moment they went on sale a couple months ago. I’ll also mention my failed attempts last calendar year for the LA and NYC shows. I’d had no Radiohead luck. I wound up scoring a relatively nosebleedyish seat to the Miami show last minute on StubHub for $40, both angrily and gratefully, wishing I had been cool enough and old enough to see the band when they were a newer band, not playing arenas but instead more approachable venues, and buying tickets was actually a chill experience. But whatever, I was here.
The opening band walks onstage right on time at 7:30, and jumps confidently into their first number. He’s singing in foreign tongue, and the scales and modes are far from the boring barrage of the same old progressions heard on American radio, my feeling of being transported to another land heightened. After a song or two, the hypnotizing male singer introduces his group as Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, and beckons a woman onstage with brown curl tendrils and a white gown and she crushes the remainder of the set with her ridiculous vocal runs and devoted twirling as he proceeds to shred on his heavily-delayed, overdriven guitar. Every note she sings, every note he plays, an elixir for the commonplace. And Radiohead are a group of men that continue to make woke, boundary-stretching decisions as they seem to reach for social unity and equality with their power, who simply wish to expose us to the magic of music they really dig, perhaps especially Iraqi songs at a time when Middle Eastern relations are suboptimal. The Kuwaitis expose their souls to us; completely unselfconscious, clapping, smiling, passionate, humble, and this vulnerability encourages many girls around me to stand up and try belly dancing. I even smell some reefer.
Their perfectly timed 30-minute set ends, and we are left with a prerecorded crescendo of tone, bass throbbing. Barren sounds of alien birds and harps you’d hear coming off anesthesia, and oodles of smoke machines, designed adequately to get us panting for our beloved. We wait 33 minutes. I’ve been waiting 33 years. The lights go off. The spot goes berserk.
Omfg they’re putting their instruments on. Radiohead are actually men on stage, moving their bodies and existing in the same gigantic room as me. I look around, and all the faces I make out are rapt. This is happening. Radiohead didn’t make us wait for ages like most bands of their stature might, flexing primadonna muscle or sleeping late or having gotten drunk. Their respect for us enhanced our respect for them, and at 8:37, their set begins.
Gauzy spiderwebs of bright white light touch my eyes, stretching all over the massive space, but never blinding, only adding delight. I’m laughing silently and crying tearlessly. Beginning with "Daydreaming," the group’s maturity and wisdom shining, the perfect opener to loosen the bones and brains of each and every strung out onlooker cause we are all freaking the fuck out. As a huge Philip Selway fan, I basically think he’s the best drummer that has ever lived, his glimmering bald head represents far more to me in this moment than a mere bald head ever should. But tonight, there are twin bald heads affixed to twin drum kits, the other belonging to Clive Deamer, drummer from the breathtakingly gorgeous Portishead, another of my peepants favorite groups.
Next is "Desert Island Disk," where Thom plucks the hammer-on hammer-off acoustic guitar part with extreme proficiency, as red graphic lines appear on what appears to be a huge white porcelain dish behind the band. Yorke’s voice rings clear but layered, strong yet vulnerable, completely new and same as it ever was. He explores slightly new vocal territory, while staying true to the parts we have all memorized and are silently anticipating.
Now Thom’s holding a tiny keyboard in midair for "Ful Stop," one of the tracks I’m keenest on from their latest album. His shoulders won’t stop moving, they can’t, and neither can ours. I look around me, quickly, as the music takes us to another plane. We are all everywhere and nowhere. The song is tight and brisk and gives us our first taste of that deep guttural feeling of rock Radiohead are adept at delivering. The whole band ends the song with a wave of Thom’s hand as he backs away from the mic, still gripping his tiny keyboard.
A group of four young women in front of me stand up as "Airbag" begins, uncontrollably dancing, doing a sort of hippie wave movement with their hands, and oscillating their hair wildly. Colin Greenwood, nestled with his bass between the two drummers, stares vigilantly at Philip Selway, they play as one, and it’s astoundingly evident how tight this unit has become. Selway’s drums sound crisp, enormous, and he is as smooth and effortless on the kit as I always knew he must be to repeatedly deliver performances like their records contain. This song, this drumbeat, has haunted me since high school, and I am hearing it and watching it performed live right now by the band that created it. And so are 21,000 other equally drooling folks.
A piano or organ of some sort is slyly rolled onstage, and "Morning Bell" happens, the delicious version off Kid A with Selway striking a bevy of shimmering triplets. How does one find a Philip Selway for their band, I wonder.
Witnessing "Climbing Up the Walls" performed live will remain a climactic moment of pleasure in my life til the end of it. The drums sound dead and hollow tonight, similar to their timbre on OK Computer, but better, if that was even possible. As a guitar player and avid PT Anderson fangirl, from the moment the performance began I’d been really keeping tabs on Jonny and his moves. He hadn’t really let loose yet, and with every stoop toward his pedal board, I wondered if he was having technical difficulties. But on "Climbing Up the Walls," he began to let loose a little. His tone on the turning point solo was different than the record, the rhythm completely new and really killer. Thom’s vocals were pitchy on this one, reminding us that he’s a human, imperfect, and making my love for him shine and burn.
People around me are really melting down now, and it’s all love. Everyone is riding high on elation vibes. I smell no reefer. No one needs anything, we all want to be totally presently here, nowhere else. "All I Need" begins after a few immense moments of Thom relishing in our applause, and it’s a nice reprieve from all the intensity. Deamer keeps rhythm on bells now, Thom just standing and singing, instrument-less and exposed. He visibly strains to hit the high notes, and it’s crushing how much we all adore him. It is a palpable, shared emotion, and it brings the audience to one heightened state of togetherness. He slides into one of the pianos and plays the ending out, and it is a lovely sight to behold.
I’m exhaling deeply after each song, I note, as though I hadn’t taken in air for far too long. It’s all I can do to keep it together. The band surprisingly do "Videotape" next, and it’s just too much. I’m weeping, and I’ll be damned if everyone isn’t. Jonny adds electronics brilliantly here, and there’s some very exciting percussion stuff going on. It seems to me as if Jonny is effecting Philip’s drumstick clicks live, but my pea brain can’t begin to comprehend the notions of such geniuses.
"Let Down" is lovely live, with ringing guitars and a meandering yet driving drum beat that Selway is just nailing. The smoke machines make sure we’re still with them, and now there’s purple illuminating everything, and Jonny is hunched and skinny and mesmerizing. The vocal harmonies Ed O’Brien adds begin to make the hairs on my forearms stand on end.
"I Might Be Wrong" begins and I’m screaming even though I don’t mean to be. Amnesiac is probably my favorite record of all time, because it’s the greatest record of all time, and the guitar on this song drives me mad. The two drummers are doing the sickest counterpoint beats I’ve ever seen, and Thom is jumping left and right like a six-year old boy with his large clear tambourine. Jonny really explodes here, and the guitars sound the best yet. Thom delivers these vocals just perfectly, with that partially whispery quality he mastered so early on in their career.
They switch up "Lotus Flower" tonight, with searing guitars, tribal drums, and a hastened pace. As Thom sings, I see him experience a revelation, raising his arms above his head as though receiving a gift from above. The song is more moving here than even the very first time I heard it, the day it was released, in a yoga class at Kula in Williamsburg, where I proceeded to cry on my mat.
What fun it was to watch a unique and new Identikit take shape live, after being obsessed with the album version since it’s release. Thom explores a bit vocally in the beginning, builds up to a manic rain dance replete with stamping and stomping. Jonny is at his peak here, with a sick nasty solo that is more assaultive if less defined than the astounding solo on the record.
Next is "Idioteque," an all time fave, and the crowd cheers in agreement as it begins. Jonny fiddles with some cool black box, his back to us, and Thom seemingly forgets the lyrics midway through, so we all help him. The crowd is seething now.
"Nude" is lovely and feels quite intimate, despite the fact that we’re in a tremendous arena. Guitar is thick and silky and sounds somehow like an orchestra, then at times takes on a percussive role due to Jonny’s prodigious muting technique. Thom’s vocal is devastating. I sit down because I’d fall over or wilt if not.
Jonny comes out of his self-inflicted corner and moves around a little for "Weird Fishes," joining Ed for brilliant guitarmony.
They just sort of ooze into "The Numbers" in this casual way, and it’s drippingly seductive. A slow jam made innumerably more complex by the immense combined talent of Ed and Jonny doing exquisite thrashing things on their guitars.
Jonny starts "How to Disappear Completely" with abstract piano plunks, and as Thom sings, we are all reminded why this band and the entirety of the universe exists. And then, they leave.
We pray and scream, and they do come back. Twice. During "No Surprises," when Thom says, “They don’t speak for us,” the audience cheer the loudest cheer yet, an enraged snarl, a knowing release, the weighty political discomfort rising out our bodies with a fever.
This live version of "Burn The Witch" is what I secretly wanted to hear when the single first appeared on the internet. Guitars are squealing and, at times, Jonny uses a bow on his. Drums are driving, the tempo accelerated greatly. This is the hardest song of the set, and it’s the encore of a song that isn’t hard. The lid blew off my noggin on this one.
"Reckoner" was tight, beautiful, and in every sense of the word, a truly collaborative performance by the band.
Next came "Fake Plastic Trees," which I admit I skip every time I listen to The Bends. At first, I’m not fully feeling it. Thom Yorke has been singing for an hour and a half at this point, and his voice sounds clean and strong, yet crumbles into oblivion just when it must. Jonny is stabbing at his guitar at the end of the song, coaxing me to concede, but by then I’ve completely come around and am fully with him, with them. Everyone in the crowd is singing for the first time the whole show, and the fact that it could all be over after this number is certainly setting in.
Then, they do "The Tourist." I hadn’t predicted this one would show up tonight, it hadn’t been performed since 2008. Thom’s vocal is so exceedingly dope, though, and I totally align with their choice to include it. How Yorke switches from chest to head voice is the epitome of having a vocal style. And Jonny’s dirty flanged guitar allows us to see this old tune through a new lens.
Second encore begins with "You And Whose Army?" and it’s almost too much to bear. The song is presented in a more intimate, less thrash mood, and I’m reduced to a puddle of a woman.
"Bodysnatchers" finishes off the night, in a much-needed fit of violent instrumentation and exaltation. Jonny continuously tries to start a lawnmower on his axe and the sounds of the act elicit full body chills. Philip is as punctuated and perfectly timed as ever. The song is an unexpectedly novel bookend to "Daydreaming." Waving. Air kisses. Cheering. And then the lights are on and the band is gone.
They didn’t play "Paranoid Android" or "Karma Police," brilliant. I could’ve used "Optimistic," "Pyramid Song," or more off Hail to the Thief, a record I personally find remarkable. But I’m grateful for exactly what their brains settled on, because everything they gave was exactly what I needed. They didn’t go til one in the morning, even with my hour plus drive home I was in bed a little after midnight. And I got to experience the energy, nerves, humility that goes along with the first night of tour. To say it was a profound experience sounds trite but also right.
- Kerry Jones
"The Tourist" wasn't the only rare performance on this tour. Night 2 (Atlanta on 4/1) got "House of Cards" and "Subterranean Homesick Alien," the former of which hadn't been played live in five years. More pictures, videos and the setlists from Miami and Atlanta, below
SETLIST: Radiohead @ American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL 3/30/2017
Desert Island Disk
(Tour debut; First live performance since 2010)
Climbing Up the Walls
All I Need
I Might Be Wrong
(Tour debut; First live performance since 2012)
('The National Anthem' was… more )
How to Disappear Completely
Burn the Witch
Fake Plastic Trees
You and Whose Army?
SETLIST: Radiohead @ Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA 4/1/2017
Desert Island Disk
My Iron Lung
All I Need
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
I Might Be Wrong
Subterranean Homesick Alien
House of Cards
Burn the Witch
Everything in Its Right Place
You and Whose Army?