Almost two years to the date that I first had the immense privilege of seeing Radiohead live for the first time, Thom Yorke and the boys have returned to the United States to begin a new tour to promote Hail to the Thief. Even if the world has changed dramatically since that August 2001 night I saw them last, the band certainly has not. Live in concert, they are once again nothing short of magnificent.
The boys played 23 songs before a sold-out audience of approximately 20,000 ecstatic fans. Things got off to a rousing start with the one-two punch of 2+2=5 and a stripped-down version of Stand Up, Sit Down. All told, ten of the fourteen tracks that make up the new album were performed, including two of my personal favourites, There There and Where I End and You Begin.
Among the ‘golden oldies’ performed were Everything In Its Right Place, My Iron Lung, and Paranoid Android. While a lot of familiar older tunes were played, there was no room for High and Dry, I Might Be Wrong or Karma Police amongst others.
What the band did play, which was greeted with an amusing mix of cheers and surprise, was Creep, a song that the band have not played live (at least here in the States) for seven years. While Creep is perhaps one Radiohead song that we could all do without ever hearing again, Yorke delivered the lyrics with such power and passion that hearing it again after so long turned out not to be such a bad thing after all.
Each and every band member shared that power and passion. Yorke sang, played piano and guitar, danced and whipped around the stage like a Thunderbird puppet on speed. Ed O’ Brien and Johnny Greenwood ripped through the crowd with their stunning guitar work as did Colin Greenwood on the bass, while the brilliant Phil Selway brought it all together with his unique and infectious style of drumming.
Usually, the beginning of a tour is when all the bugs get worked out. The band, the lead singer’s voice and their equipment are all finding their footing once again outside the studio. The shows usually go well but there is always a hiccup somewhere along the way that sticks in the fans’ collective memories. If Radiohead were experiencing any of these things during tonight’s performance, I was hard pressed to notice it. This is what every live performance should be like – perfect.