Last week I drove out to Glendale, Arizona for to see my seventh Radiohead concert. I’m proud of the fact that I have seen them once per album since 1997. And while I cannot say this was as epic as some of the shows in the past, it was a total blast and quite memorable for a few reasons.
First, an indoor arena has a significantly different feel than the big outdoor concerts they have been focused on the past 10 years. While the capacity of the arena in Glendale was not drastically smaller than, say, the Hollywood Bowl (surprisingly very similar), the fact that it was indoor with a general admission floor gave a much different experience. You could actually see the band! I could, anyway, as I was on the floor, not too far back from the stage. This video is indicative: it seems to have been shot and zoomed over my head.
That video also brings me to my other point about Radiohead’s setlists. Most bands will play their new songs pretty straight, while maybe experimenting a bit with their older songs. Radiohead? The exact opposite. As you can hear with this old song (“Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box”), it sounds fairly similar to the recorded version on Amnesiac. But compare that to the new “Bloom” at the top, which has expanded and blown up into an entirely new experience. Most of the new King Of Limbs songs were like this. “Little By Little,” while dark on record, sounds downright menacing live. “Good Morning Mr Magpie” is sped up. “Feral” explodes into some crazy thing, somehow becoming one of the more exciting songs in the set. (Why can’t it sound like that on the record?!) The new songs were pretty mindblowing, and that is what I will remember most of all about the music this tour.
But then, the converse is true too: the old songs sound exactly like you’d expect. I love hearing the songs fucked with and expanded like this and why can’t they do that with the old songs too? Doesn’t have to be drastic, but “Paranoid Android” and all those sound like they always have. Do they have to? If they can experiment with “Feral,” why not the old stuff? I do not mean to diminish the excitement of hearing the “Airbag” riff in person, don’t get me wrong. I definitely recognize how great it is to still go to a show, 15 years later, and still have that “Paranoid Android” crowd frenzy. But it did make me wonder if they cruise through certain things to some extent? I don’t know, I’m conflicted on this–torn between wanting more experiments but also loving their back catalog. In the end though, Radiohead on cruise control still sounds like this, so I’m just nitpicking:
Other little thoughts: “Lotus Flower” appears to be their new most-popular song, the crowd went crazy for it, along with old faves like “Idioteque” and “There There.” I really can’t imagine them dropping any of those from any set they do, ever.
Outside the King Of Limbs stuff, they also played recent tracks like “The Daily Mail” and “Identikit.” A few other new songs have shown up on this tour, but those were the two I heard. Thom told the crowd that their goal was to play more new stuff–looking back is ok but looking forward is what keeps them going. “Identikit” reminded me a bit of “Lotus Flower,” maybe just less seductive. That’s first impression though, and will be curious if they release it soon (Thom said it was his favorite new song). They did release a live version of “The Daily Mail” recently, and it’s been growing on me quite a bit.
Anyway, Radiohead’s songs are so good and they’re such amazing performers that there’s no way a show won’t rejuvenate you.