Friday, July 20, 2018

This Decade's Radiohead Concert

Way back in 1997, just after OK Computer hit the shelves, Radiohead played a concert in (of all places) my hometown of London, Ontario.  This was the first “real” concert I’d ever attended, my parents taking me to go see Sharon, Lois & Bram as a four-year-old notwithstanding.  Fast-forward to 2008, and I saw Radiohead for a second time, this show taking place on a rainy night at the Molson Amphitheatre.

And now, almost exactly 10 years later, there I was at Radiohead concert #3.  This one was in the more comfortable environs of the Air Can…er, Scotiabank Centre,* though unfortunately, my actual comfort during the show was limited.  If Radiohead concerts serve as 2001-esque monoliths in my life as a concert-goer, we’ve hit the next step in my evolution.  We went from newbie, to seasoned music-watcher, to Too Old For General Admission. 

* = wow, it’ll take a while to get used to writing that  

After four hours of standing and sorta-dancing on concrete, my legs, feet, and back were absolutely killing me.  My friend M, co-attendee at the show, was also nursing sore feet due to an ill-advised choice of shoes, so we made quite the pair hobbling our way up the stairs after the concert was over.  Now, to be fair, it was our own fault we were in this predicament, as we’d gotten in relatively early and took up a prime spot about 35 feet away from the stage, dead-centre.  There was thus little room to really maneuver ourselves for any additional comfort, since we were packt like sardines in a crushd tin box amidst the many other fans wanting to get close to the stage.

I’ve spent this much time on my general physical condition since it couldn’t help but impact my enjoyment of the concert.  You know you’re hurting when the band comes out for a second encore and your first thought is “NOOOOOOO.”  Needless to say, however, my soreness shouldn’t take away from Radiohead still putting on a great show after all these years.

For something completely different, the opening act was Shye Ben Tzur, an Israeli musician whose material is sort of fusion of Israeli and Indian music.  He was joined by his backing band, the Rajasthan Express, and also….Jonny Greenwood, since what better way to prepare for a concert by playing another concert.  We weren’t even aware that there even was an opening act for the show, so this was a fun surprise, particularly as the band was fantastic.  They really got the crowd fired up and into the music, which often can’t be said for more familiar bands in more familiar genres. 

This tour might technically still be in support of A Moon-Shaped Pool, though Radiohead only played four songs off the album, including the rather surprising omission of “Burn The Witch.”  Judging from other setlists on the tour, Radiohead is basically just playing whatever they want on the tour, so you’re likely in for quite a bit of variance if you attend multiple shows.  The cool thing about Radiohead generally shying away from their most well-known past material (from OK Computer and The Bends) and not really having too many mainstream singles in the interim is that they could easily come out the next night and play 25 entirely different songs and put on just as satisfying a performance.  I mean, I personally could’ve done without all the King Of Limbs stuff aside from personal favourite “Lotus Flower,” but to each their own.

The stage was brilliant in its simplicity, with just one oval-shaped (or moon-shaped!) video screen lit with various different colour-filters, either showing multiple images of the band members in a sort of hive collage, or other vaguely computerized imagery, like radio waves, an EKG monitor, or the traditional Matrix-style green computer text during “The Gloaming.”

Radiohead has added a new member to their live concerts since I saw them last, as they now have an additional drummer on stage.  At first I thought Phil Selway was being phased out, or we were getting a guest appearance from Ringo Starr, though it ended up being another extra body who was more of a percussionist and other random instrumentalist rather than a strict drummer.  They didn’t really get too kooky with double beats or anything when Selway and New Guy were both drumming at the same time, either.  Frankly, I’m surprised Radiohead can replicate all their unique sounds on-stage with six guys, so requiring just one more extra person is still pretty impressive.

I’m highly looking forward to seeing Radiohead again in, say, 2028.  Needless to say, I’ll be watching from the comfort of an actual seat.

The setlist….

1. Daydreaming
2. Ful Stop
3. Myxomatosis
4. Morning Bell
5. All I Need
6. Videotape
7. The Gloaming
8. No Surprises
9. Airbag
10. Where I End And You Begin
11. Bloom
12. Feral
13. The Numbers
14. Like Spinning Plates
15. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
16. Bodysnatchers
17. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
—ENCORE #1 —
18. 2 + 2 = 5
19. Nude
20. Identikit
21. Lotus Flower
22. The Tourist
— ENCORE #2 —
23. Everything In Its Right Place
24. Idioteque
25. Karma Police

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