The weather outside was frightful, but the concert was so delightful. If there was any band whose performing ambience would be somehow appropriate in a driving rainstorm, it would be Radiohead. Thankfully the storm clouds subsided about 20 minutes before the start of the show and thus those of us in the non-covered portion of the Molson Amphitheatre could enjoy the show without an umbrella. The pre-show downpour did lead to some cheerful developments, presumably the two rainbows (one very thick, one faint but visible) that were visible to the southeast. I, like about 82 percent of the crowd, commented on the nice touch of a pair of rainbows during a concert from a band whose last album was titled 'In Rainbows.' Perhaps Thom Yorke rented a plane from the Island Airport and seeded the clouds before the show to create the effect. That would be even more above and beyond than Peter Frampton and his inflatable pig.
I was there as a result of a last-minute ticket courtesy of my friends Jason and Robin. At a White Stripes concert in 2003, Jason made a number of comments about Jack White's tight black pants, and I mentioned this interest in a review of the concert in my school paper. Ergo, Jason asked that this blog post not include anything embarrassing that he may have said. No problem. I'll be sure to leave out how, in order to break the post-show logjam at the exits, Jason suggested that I yell out 'I have SARS!' Robin, meanwhile, is the only other fellow Echo owner I know. Our cars got together on a play date once, but they didn't get along. My car (Mr. Eko) ended up stealing her car's (Dennis Echoersley) toys....it was very embarrassing for me as a car-owner. I took a bumpy road home as punishment.
* = by the way, Molson Amphitheatre? What's up with the bottleneck exit? In case you've never been at the Amph before, the whole crowd is forced to file out on the same side of the facility, and those three exits filter out into the same single passage out of the park. For those of us on the left side of the crowd, it took a solid half-hour just to get out of there. If there had been a fire (or, if someone had had SARS), there would've been panic.
But enough of this nonsense. Onto Radiohead. The show was heavy on material from the band's previous four albums, including every single track from In Rainbows. Though I had my issues with Hail to the Thief and Amnesiac, the focus on the new stuff was fine given that the last Radiohead concert I attended was way back at the ol' London Centennial Hall in 1997, so all of this material was new to me. And live, a lot of these songs really took off in a way that isn't apparent on the albums, particularly the 'Thief' tracks. The arguable highlight of the show was a performance of The Gloaming that included a sick visual display. The stage was lit by a series of tubes [/Ted Stevens] hanging down from the rafters that lit up with some sort of LED technology, and when combined with the five-panel video screen behind the band, the overall visual effect was pretty terrific. For Gloaming, the lights took on various shades of green until by the end of the song, it looked like a Matrix bar code was enveloping the band. Now, I could point out how the individualized video screens were from U2's Elevation tour, and the LED curtain was from U2's Atomic Bomb tour, but then I'd just be a dick.
It says something about Radiohead's musical acumen that I greatly enjoyed the show in spite of the setlist omitting almost all of my favourite Radiohead songs. (Since, of course, I'm sure my interest was of major concern to the band. "Hey Ed, do you think Mark will be mad if we don't play his favourite tracks?" "If he is, we'll try to distract him by pointing out how much he and Phil look like each other." "Good idea, mate.") No Just, no Paranoid Android, no I Might Be Wrong, no National Anthem --- no problem. They didn't play High & Dry, which wasn't a big surprise since they haven't played the song in over a decade, but they also didn't play it at the Centennial Hall show either. Given that H&D is actually my favourite of their songs, it's a bit of a pisser. Now I know how my buddy Trev feels. His favourite U2 song is All I Want Is You, and yet in three different U2 concerts he's attended, the band has yet to bust that one out. If they don't play it during next year's tour, all Bono will want is a bodyguard to protect him from a Trev-fuelled beatdown.
Then again, we did get Airbag, Reckoner (the top In Rainbows track, imo), a very rare performance of Talk Show Host, Street Spirit and the show closer, Everything In Its Right Place. From looking at Radiohead's setlists from this tour, the MO seems to be to play everything from In Rainbows and then just randomly select songs to fill out the rest of the setlists. So theoretically, if this tour goes on long enough, they'll eventually get around to High & Dry or something off of Pablo Honey. By 'long enough,' I mean until around 2012.
All in all, 'twas a fantastic show. Great music, great atmosphere, great crowd that was into everything, and even eventually great weather as we got a bit of clear night in the midst of Toronto's Seattle-esque summer. The best Radiohead can is good enough.
RIP Keely Smith
42 minutes ago