So much of this whole blog thing came about not from wine, but from music…! For several years I’ve written gig and festival reviews and shared them around email with a bunch of mates (and their mates, etc etc). After a while it felt like I was writing a pseudo-blog so when I started Like This Love That, Like This Blog That was a natural extension of my predilection for verbosity.
Without any further ado I announce the topic for this weeks post – Radiohead. That’s right, I was lucky enough to see them play on Saturday night and as my favourite band of all time (by a comfortable margin) I’m indulging myself by publishing my review to a slightly wider circle than I would have otherwise. So here goes.
I’ll try to be somewhat subjective here, but I’ve been waiting almost 15 years to write this review after seeing them on the OK computer tour as a fresh faced 16 year old. That gig in itself sent me down the rabbit hole of musical discovery to chase down thousands of artists making interesting music (and probably hundreds of live shows too). As such, seeing them play live helped define a large part of myself both past, present (and probably) future. A trip from Adelaide to Melbourne and tickets to the cancelled show of 2004 has only fuelled the fire. So finally, over the course of yesterday afternoon, the reality started to sink in that I was finally getting another opportunity to see them play.
After a fun surf at Bird Rock in the morning, and an utterly exceptional chardonnay tasting in the afternoon (probably to be the subject of a future post, and definitely supporting my recent article), we got the crew together for a few drinks and then a quick feed at Fonda Mexican (great stuff, have been there about 20 times in the last 3 months!). Lobbed up at Rod Laver in time to catch a couple of songs of support Connan Mockasin, who were ok but a bit sedate. They played this though, which is a pretty good tune.
I’d gone on ‘blackout’ from any Radiohead media coverage cause I didn’t want to know anything about the show or setlists, and finally it was time. Lights dropped, cheers went up as the mythical group hit the stage. Our seats were quite close on the side of stage which offered a great perspective and made it seem a bit more intimate than ‘Arena Rock’. I always find that the gap between seated punters in an arena is not a great conductor of excitement, and this is the challenge for any band playing in these settings. Opening with King of Limbs highlight ‘Lotus Flower’ to get everyone moving they sounded great but I was still struck with nervousness – what if they sucked? What is Thom’s voice was second rate again and they played anyway? Certainly for the first two or three songs it seemed to be still warming up. ‘Bloom’ was up next, the live version captures and reinterprets the percussive cacophony of the recorded version well; followed by the stunning ‘There There’ off Hail to the Thief. This was where they really started to warm up. Until now the songs sounded great but I was still waiting to feel something, to be swept up in the moment.
The stage show was incredible. Light tubes running behind the band top to bottom to give the impression of a screen, with a semi-circular wall of lights at the back of the stage. Huge TV screens dropped from the roof and changed alignment and angle to show colours and patterns and flashes of the band in action. It was beautifully supportive of the music but a ‘flexible’ arrangement that could be varied as needed by the lighting engineers – meaning that the show had much more of a ‘live’ feeling than many big light shows; no synced fireworks or confetti cannons here.
It was the one-two of Myxomatosis and The Gloaming where things really started to kick up. Energy was starting to flow between the crowd and the stage as things got loud and deep. It’s odd music, in any light, and their ability to fill arena tours with it is testament to their creativity. Kid A and How to Disappear Completely were an unexpected step back in time, but it was the beautiful ‘Nude’ off In Rainbows where I was finally totally won over to the glorious spectacle. By this stage, the event was everything it should have been and I was rolling with it. The time for the rest of the main set seemed to evaporate with Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, a new tune called ‘Full Stop’, You and Whose Army, A rousing Paranoid Android, the brutal Feral and song of the night for me ‘Bodysnatchers’. By the time the end of Bodysnatchers run out I was hooting and hollering, electrified as they left the stage. Looked at my watch and they’d clocked up nearly 90 minutes of stage time which felt like about 20 minutes.
Returning to stage they lit the room up with Exit Music (for a film), a song called ‘These Are My Twisted Words’, the beautiful Pyramid Song, “Wizened old song” Planet Telex and a banging Idioteque before leaving for a second time. Second encore was Give up The Ghost, a ridiculous version of Reckoner (probably my second favourite song of the night) and an extended finale of True Love Waits into Everything in it’s Right Place. Gracious in their thanks, they looked like they’d genuinely enjoyed being there. Finally a successful tour of Australia! Maybe they’ll come back a bit sooner next time.
We left into the night with voices sore from hooting, buzzing from the spectacle, off to find a beer and decompress.
As a final aside, and to those who don’t get Radiohead, consider this perspective: “Oh yeah, tonight I’m going to see a band who had their breakout single in 1993, and then followed it up with two massive records in 95 and 97. They’ll mostly play a bunch of album tracks off their last two or three records (they don’t really release singles), maybe one or two off the ones from the 90s and definitely not their big hit from 93. And they’re more popular than ever”.
In a league of their own.
Back to the normal stuff next week, thanks for allowing my indulgence!
Happy Drinking, Pete