Radiohead: Perfect in Atlanta

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.

Set List:

Bloom, Little By Little, Airbag, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, Morning Mr. Magpie, The Gloaming, Kid A, Pyramid Song, Nude, Identikit, Lotus Flower, There There, Feral, Idioteque, The Daily Mail, Bodysnatchers

Encore:

Separator, You And Whose Army?, Myxomatosis, The One I Love / Everything In Its Right Place

Encore 2:

Staircase, Reckoner, Street Spirit (Fade Out)

90. RADIOHEAD, 5/8/08

Location: Lakewood Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA
Supporting Act(s): Liars
In the Company of: Thomas S.

Intentionally or not, Radiohead is changing the way we buy music. Their latest release, “In Rainbows,” was released exclusively as a digital download for a price the buyer determined. Needless to say, many took advantage of this free offer and got it for nothing. Others, supportive of the band, gave a few bucks.

Widespread reports surfaced that a million downloads occurred by the time the physical cd was released. Radiohead’s genius is that so many more listeners acquired “In Rainbows” than if the album had been released traditionally. This exposure may explain several sold-out shows on their current tour in America. It may also explain why the music industry is very nervous right now. They are hoping and betting that no other groups get the urge to be so bold.

Formed in Oxfordshire, England in 1986, the band was originally known as On a Friday. When EMI signed them in 1992, a name change was requested. Being Talking Heads fans, the boys renamed their band after the song “Radio Head,” from the 1986 album “True Stories.” In that song, David Byrne sings, “Transmitter / Picking up something good / Radio head / The sound of a brand new world.” This is an apt description of Radiohead’s music…theirs is the sound for a brand new world.

The show began with the beautiful “All I Need” (“I’m the next act / Waiting in the wings”) as red lasers flashed on dozens of tubes hanging from the rafters. Behind the tubes was a large, rectangular screen that showed the band members from several different angles. As the evening progressed, a variety of lasers, lights, and designs shone on the tubes.

Throughout the night, Radiohead treated fans to some of their finest work. Possibly to some newer fans’ dismay, the band skipped over some of their earlier, more well known songs, thus avoiding a predictable evening. “Creep,” “High And Dry,” and “Karma Police” were left off the set list. Instead, deeper cuts were performed including the songs “Idioteque,” “Paranoid Android,” “How To Disappear Completely,” “Talk Show Host,” and “National Anthem.” Nine of the ten selections from the new release “In Rainbows” were played, with the only omission being “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.”

Leader Thom Yorke danced and gyrated throughout the evening in a somewhat Stipe-ian manner. His voice was clear and strong, while his guitar and piano playing was top notch. Guitarist Ed O’Brien experimented with many pieces, on the floor quite often adjusting the sound. Brothers Jonny and Colin Greenwood, playing guitar and bass respectively, added to the excellent sound created by the band. Drummer Phil Selway mastered the rhythm section.

As the rain came down at Lakewood Amphitheatre, the fans seemed to become more in tune with the band. It definitely added to the atmosphere of an awesome rock show. These were dedicated fans who knew the songs and appreciated the fact that a group like Radiohead could sell out a concert in the Bible belt. When performing “You And Whose Army?” Yorke sings “Come on if you think you can take us on.” Right now, there’s not a band that could win that challenge.

Opening the show was the trio Liars. This art-rock group relied heavily on the drums and had a sound that fit perfectly with a Radiohead show. Singer Angus Andrew could have given Mick Jagger a run for his money with his active stage presence. The thin crowd was supportive of the band, which was appreciative.