Live Review: Radiohead and Other Lives at Philips Arena, 3/1/12
Those who admittedly “don’t get” Radiohead have clearly never experienced a live show. But others, who have been fans of the band since the beginning, have found it easier to appreciate Radiohead’s music as the band has evolved over nearly 20 years on the scene. Despite their electronic/experimental leanings, anyone would be a convert after being witness to one of these astonishing productions.
With the phenomenal musicianship of each member of the band, every song was brilliantly performed – even those unfamiliar to many in the audience sounded like hits. There has been little if any radio play for Radiohead’s songs since the beginning (“Creep,” “High And Dry” and “Karma Police” are exceptions, which had limited success in America – none of which are played live very often). To be honest, The King of Limbs Radiohead is a far cry from the more accessible Pablo Honey Radiohead of 1993.
Lead singer/frantic dancer Thom Yorke (who also skillfully handled guitars, keyboards and piano) commanded a perfect evening for Atlanta fans on the third stop of the King of Limbs tour. Ed O’Brien (guitars, backing vocals, electronics), brothers Colin (bass guitars, keyboards) and Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, etc.), and Phil Selway (drums, percussion) round out this critically acclaimed British quintet. A majority of tracks off of the new album were played and sounded spectacular live. The 20,000+ rabid fans filled the sold-out Philips Arena and were possibly the only thing louder than the band. Radiohead definitely felt the love that night, crowd surfers and all.
Besides creating music that no one can predict, this group is also known for breathtaking visuals. On the new tour, there are twelve giant screens (each measuring roughly five feet by five feet) hanging high above the stage, showing live images of each member. Several cameras were mounted stage left and right. The huge wall behind the band looked more like bubble wrap, but soon would be host erratic and colorful designs via thousands of LEDs which may or may not have been responsible for seizures throughout the throngs of crazy fans. As the show progressed, those colossal screens began to slowly lower until they were hanging at various angles just above the bandmember’s heads. This mezmerising effect made every seat in the house a front row experience. The screens raised and lowered throughout the show.
Yorke has transcended into Rock God status. At the beginning and end of every song, enamored fans hooted, hollared and screamed their approval. The same thing happened each time he spoke. Even clearing his throat brought applause. Yorke seems the epitome of contentment as he danced and jumped and flailed around the stage, much like Michael Stipe was known to do. Stipe and R.E.M. were one of Radiohead’s inspirations and they opened for the Georgia natives a few times in the nineties.
After an incredible set of 16 wonderful songs, the band gave two encores. In all respects, Yorke was extremely appreciative and thanked the fans repeatedly. Ending the first encore, he sat at the keyboard and sang a few bars of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” which lead seamlessly into the marvelous “Everything In Its Right Place,” one of the evening’s most well-received tunes. When Yorke sings, “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon / Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,” it’s hard to imagine that’s his life now. The dude was smiling more and dancing more and living more. At concert’s end, the band had surpassed the two-hour mark.
As Radiohead continue to evolve musically, they also improve upon their live performances. This night in Atlanta should rank up their with their most flawless of evenings. Everything seemed to be in its right place. The only drawback was that many songs were not played due to time constraints and/or the band’s own lack of willingness to play them. Nevertheless, every serious music fan should add Radiohead to their short list of “must see” shows.
Oklahoma’s Other Lives opened the show with a fantastic set. Supporting Radiohead on the first leg of the tour, Other Lives culled most of the songs from last year’s Tamer Animals (TBD) album, including the incredible “For 12.” Just last summer, the band was in Atlanta opening for the Rosebuds in the much smaller EARL venue. They’ve come a long way in a few short months.
Frontman Jesse Tabish lead the six-piece ensemble through a too-brief set of beautiful tunes. Their sound is relatively close to the Radiohead neighborhood of music and the audience recognized that. They will finish out this American tour with Radiohead, then move on and evolve, as all great bands do.