Live Music + Gig Reviews

Radiohead + Asian Dub Foundation @ Earl’s Court, London

26 November 2003

Radiohead Originality is surely the greatest deficiency in music today, and Asian Dub Foundation are here to let Earls Court know where it’s all been hiding. In layman’s terms, picture the Panjabi MC jamming with the late great Rage Against The Machine. The hardline political message is conveyed though a mix of Bhangra beats, dub bass and infectious guitar licks, creating a wall of noise that the indie audience isn’t quite sure what to do with.

Blowback is a perfect example of their sound, dedicated with seething fury to “Bush and his fellow terrorists” with a dub groove so low that one’s teeth start to rattle. Fortress Europe tells the “other side of the asylum seeker’s story” with the audience even managing to shout along during the rousing chant: “Keep bangin’ on the walls of Fortress Europe!”

Vocalists leave the stage for more instrumental acrobatics, while drummer and percussionists have their work cut out, to produce a blizzard of intricate rhythms. Returning in rebel headscarves for Enemy Of The Enemy, the PA hums with blasts of swirling chaos. The scratching, eerie sound climaxes with a lead guitar lick that drops into a drum and bass track so wild, it would give Roni Size a hernia.

Closing with War Cry, dedicated to all the world’s anti-Capitalists, Asian Dub Foundation then utter the last line I ever thought possible to hear at a Radiohead concert: “Where all the jungle-ists at?” And despite their utter confusion and bemusement at the novel group before them, the majority of the crowd seems to be won over by War Cry, with random outbursts of jumping and dancing throughout.

After half an hour of music through the sound system that can only be described as the soundtrack to a nightmare, the sultans of the strange take to thestage in dim lights, performing a weird, techno-fringed number, The Gloaming, before tearing into the brillianttitle track form their latest album. Hail To The Thief has elements of Muse and The Sex Pistols, and shows Thom Yorke at his most cheesed off for years.

The funky, grinding riff of Myxomatosis proves a favourite throughout the sold-out venue, with a following jam that would have been right at home on a Beck album or even better on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. But Thom and his boys are way too “anti-cool” for that, eh?

Bizare and tuneless piano and techno numbers populate the next 20 minutes, while the band unleash their own brand of “originality” on the audience. You can’t help but feel that, amongst the irony of the vocal which runs something like, “I’ll take the rats and the children… C’mon kids… C’mon kids,” that it is in fact Mr Yorke and his not so merry men who have “stolen” the children and their taste buds with the experimentation of recent albums.

Still, however hypnotic the powers of his pipe, there is simply no denying that Fake Plastic Trees, Just, and Paranoid Android hark back to a time when this band were, quite simply, untouchable. If Paranoid Android is the best song they have ever written, then tonight is without a doubt the finest performance of it, searing from jangly intro to the insanely manic break with unsurpassed excellence.

With encore numbers including a clap-along version of Kid A, Knives out, and a superb rendition of Karma Police, one thing is clear: Radiohead can write amazing songs and rock them like no one else when the material is right. However, if they keep producing their recently adopted blend of Fake Plastic electronica, then they run the risk of their popularity Creep-ing away.

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