Though I have my reservations about The King Of Limbs and, like most people, revere the back catalog enough to be considered “formative” of personal experience listening to alternative music, I had realistic expectations for Wednesday night’s Radiohead show, the first of two at NYC’s Roseland ballroom. After all, this isn’t the band from Meeting People Is Easy anymore — most of my damage, in terms of seeing that band play, came in the post-Hail To The Thief reality, where the band could easily be characterized as jovial and giving. For an outfit that had once been so associated with sadsacky dourness, Radiohead seemed to be having a shitload of fun. Thom, once a bastion of heavy-onset moodiness, is now basically a jolly, living .GIF. He mutters and rambles on stage more than ever and people, more than happy to engage the once locked-up singer, would applaud it like it was an inauguration. The band, now buttressed with a second drummer (Clive Deamer) on stage, has never been tighter and Thom’s vocals had never been crisper. So last night, in a sense, was a perfect celebration of the band’s latter, softer era. And, so, your opinion depended on your appreciation, or lack thereof, of this modern era of Radiohead’s monolithic rock.
I have had my issues with King Of Limbs, though I respect the record as a shamelessly pretty thing perhaps bereft of the spine or visceral bombast of the band’s first four or five albums. And, Roseland Ballroom, a hangar-like space that by nature dampens the sound, ensured that whatever edge that Radiohead might have exhibited would be further softened (for example, Four Tet, a completely transfixing and propulsive outfit in a much smaller room, could hardly hold the attention of the crowd, as many of them had camped out all day, united under a single purpose). As soon as Radiohead came out and opened with three new songs (“Bloom,” “Little By Little,” and the brand-new “Staircase”) before wandering into In Rainbows’ “Arpeggi/Weird Fishes,” it became pretty clear to the audience what the vibe was; though I’m sure there’s a time and a place to yell, “Play “Lift“!”, tonight was not that time and Roseland Ballroom was not that place.
The crowd, though somewhat hostile, didn’t hold it against Radiohead. “The Daily Mail” was greeted with as much enthusiasm as any other song in the set, save for “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (which the band hasn’t played since 2003) and the second encore’s “Street Spirit.” The band overcame a few sonic hiccups to pump out a memorable rendition of “Reckoner” and supplied a nice hat-tip to R.E.M., as Yorke vocally sampled from “The One I Love” as the band built “Everything In Its Right Place,” which still sounds weird to me in the middle of the set but, oh well, I’ll get over it. Radiohead, once possessors of a maddening live quirk where pianos or other instruments are hauled on and off stage willy nilly as to lead to four or five minute delays between songs, kept the piano on stage to play a block of piano-led songs, which was ultimately good for momentum.
People didn’t delude themselves as to think Radiohead would devote an entire portion of the set to the older hits, but when the first encore concluded, they were desperate for more, fiends for just a taste of the ’90s Radiohead that raised them. And, despite the house music going on, the crowd’s vigilance led to a second encore and their ultimate reward, “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” And, for about three to four minutes there, all gripes were secondary as souls were immersed in love.
If you look at the show as a celebration of the band’s latter period, than last night’s NYC date was a rousing success. If you’re celebrator of an entire canon, however, it might just be that those days are history.
All photos above by Jessica Amaya.
And now, because people can’t seem to get enough of these, your Thom Yorke quotes gallery.
- “Have you seen that movie Inside Job? [Incoherent muttering] … fucking massive penthouse.”
- Pre-”Myxomatosis”: “This one’s for rabbit season.”
- “Anyone know a joke about a piano? This one is slightly older than the other one”
- On “Lotus Flower.” “That’s the video when I officially became an embarrassing dad. And I’m proud of it.”
- Something to the tune of, but maybe not exactly “This is so much better than being in a TV studio.” Which is a total #humblebrag.
- “This one is called Nude. You probably should help me. Cause I’m obviously going senile. New Yaawk!”
Some quotes clarified thanks to AtEaseWeb.
02 “Little By Little”
04 “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”
06 “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (first performance since Red Rocks 2003)
07 “All I Need”
08 “The One I Love” (R.E.M. Tease)/”Everything In Its Right Place”
09 “Lotus Flower”
10 “15 Step”
13 “The Daily Mail”
16 “Give Up The Ghost” (just Thom and Jonny)
17 “The National Anthem”
18 “Good Morning Mr. Magpie”
19 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
“Street Spirit (Fade Out)”
(via The Awl)
UPDATE: Two more!
(via Brooklyn Vegan)
“Subterranean Homesick Alien”
(h/t reader Andrew)
Radiohead play one more night at Roseland tonight.