Before I get into details, let me just say that Radiohead was amazing – hands down the best show I have seen.
Josh and I got to the Woodlands Pavilion about 20 minutes before the gates opened. There was a pretty interesting group of people in line. The crowd was mostly normal-looking people in their 20s and 30s, but there were some younger and some who were older. I saw several older couples in their 60s out on the lawn. Anyway, there were also some people who looked like they were trying really hard to stand out – lots of fauxhawks and mohawks, dreadlocks and facial piercings.
When the gates opened, we had to go through all the security stuff – emptying out our pockets, spinning around in a circle and lifting our pants legs so that security could see the tops of our socks. It was fun. We were pretty close to the front, so we got decent seats on the lawn.
The lawn is literally a big grassy hill behind the seated area under the pavilion. There’s no seating so a lot of people bring blankets or you can rent lawn chairs for $5 each. It’s a total ripoff, just like $40 t-shirts and $9 beers. We rented a couple of chairs, since I didn’t want to risk the odds of someone behind me spilling their beer all over me.
The opening band started at 7:30 and played for about 45 minutes. They were called either Liars or The Liars and they were pretty terrible. They started out with an instrumental introduction which wasn’t too bad, but then the singer came out. He was doing this spinning motion with his hands, like he was doing the “roll ‘em up, roll ‘em up, throw ‘em in the pan” thing. His singing only made things worse. It was this monotonous, droning buzz that would not go away. They finally stopped playing at around 8:15.
Radiohead started up at 8:45 and played for 2 hours straight. They started with the first 2 songs from In Rainbows – 15 Step and Bodysnatchers. I thought that they might just play through the album in it’s entirety, but the third song was one of my favorites from OK Computer – Lucky. It was one of the high points of the concert as far as I’m concerned. Most of the songs were from the new album, but they played a pretty good mix of old stuff, too. Probably my favorite song of the night was Arpeggi/Weird Fishes where guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien play these angular, interlocking arpeggios. It’s pretty amazing to see how they pull off all these layered textures in a live performance.
Musically, the performance was almost flawless. From what I’ve read, they’re doing different setlists every night. When you consider how large their song catalog is, that’s pretty impressive. They rehearsed for weeks to get ready to perform all these songs, and it’s clear that they did so. Everything was so tight. The rhythm section of drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood is completely locked in. guitarist Jonny Greenwood does so much more than just play guitar. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent guitarist, but he also covers keyboards and a bunch of weird little noisemakers.
Let’s not forget Thom Yorke. I don’t quite know what to say here. Either you get him or you don’t. His voice doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. He was definitely on last night. He’s an energetic little dude. I was surprised by how many instrumental parts he covers. He played a lot of the guitar parts that I thought were covered by the other guitarists, and he also played piano and/or Rhodes on several tunes. He’s just an insanely talented guy.
I’m rambling, but I’ll close it up with a little bit about the lights. Radiohead is very much into the whole carbon footprint thing, so they are always looking for ways to minimize theirs. Instead of using the high-powered incandescent lights that most rock shows use, they have gone to more efficient LED cluster configurations. They had these giant beams hanging from the ceiling that were apparently covered in programmable LEDs. It looked like the performance area was surrounded with thousands of little flickering lights. They would change from blue to green to purple to red to orange – it was really crazy. I’m sure that the people near the front were completely overwhelmed by it.
It was a fantastic show. If they come to your area, you should really try to catch them. It’s probably too late to get tickets to this tour, but you never know…