Monday, February 27th marked the day that Radiohead fans around the world had anxiously counted down for. It was the first night of their full length tour supporting latest album, The King Of Limbs. And when I say “around the world,” I mean it. Arriving to the arena at the ridiculed hour of 8:00am, it seemed the party had already started! Being the ninth person to arrive, the eight other early birds were introduced as we made ourselves comfortable on the pavement by our Floor entrance. Amongst our group, fans hailed from New York, Jupiter, San Francisco, Canada, and, get this- Russia. Pretty diverse, eh?
As the day went on, slowly but surely more and more geographically spanned fans added onto our group, showing just how dedicated Radiohead followers really are. The hours slipped by effortlessly as fans chatted about past tours and gigs until all of a sudden, 6:30pm arrived. Lined up and more then ready, we finally entered the vast and holy arena. Our 12 hour preparation worked out in the end, as we all reached the rail, front and center.
Before Radiohead commenced, though, we’d have to wait for opening band, Other Live’s performace. But to my pleasant surprise, the band played a commendable set. With a full and echoey sound, their second song resembled a Fleet Foxes-y “Climbing Up The Walls.” Their music ominously hosted a looming sense of intrigue for a distant yet titillating unknown. They also possessed a disorderly quality that any Hail to the Thief or Amnesiac fan could appreciate. With a folksy and foggy feeling of overcast, they acted well as the clouds before the storm.
As their set closed, the arena was filled to the brim with not a seat to spare awaiting Radiohead’s arrival. Finally, at 8:45 the lights came down and the screams went up. Simultaneously, about 11 screens hovered down towards the stage, creating a hanging sort of frame. The long awaited members then walked onto stage, and Thom Yorke, clad in red pants and his new pony tail, had a smile on his face. They were exactly as we’d expect them, Jonny Greenwood still miraculously looked like his lanky age defying self, cradling his guitar closely. Colin Greenwood took to his preferred spot on the stage, (hiding behind Thom by the drums) Phil Sellway was joined by Clive Deamer of Portishead, and Ed O’ Brien stood stoically tall, sporting new side bangs. Stepping forward to face the elatedly roaring and thunderous crowd, with a little wave of his hand, Thom greeted us before slithering right into The King Of Limbs opening track, “Bloom.” And just as their impeccable sound exploded through speakers, the hundreds of lights behind them fluctuated in a bluish waves.
By the next song, “The Daily Mail,” the aforementioned hovering screens swiftly rearranged overhead, and began to reveal close ups of the band playing. Cameras were scattered about the stage to capture each band member throughout the show, angles changing and colors oscillating. This entrancing visual aspect was a paramount factor in making the show observationally enthralling from all sections and all angles of the arena. This pivotal artistic element is credited to the one and only genius that is Andi Watson, Radiohead’s stage and lighting director since day one.
The screens provided an intimate feeling despite the arena’s size, it was almost like our own Live At The Basement footage sprawled out in mid air. It was surely never boring though, dynamically shifting angles and views, especially in crowd pleaser “You and Whose Army,” where there was a small camera placed on the piano in which Thom was slumped over playing. Staring into the lens singing straight at it, his face was shone in black and white wide angle frame on numerous screens, slightly reminiscent of the “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” music video. Even with Thom’s back towards the audience, Watson figured a way to make it one of the most forward and in your face performances.
After four hypnotic consecutive TKOL tracks, they launched into “The National Anthem,” and from that point on Thom Yorke could not stand still. And we loved it. Flailing about uncontrollably, he KNEW we loved it, and he wouldn’t deprive us of a single dance move in his repertoire. This obvious excitement towards the gig contributed to all the band member’s performances. You could tell they were enjoying themselves, which automatically strengthened every other element of the show.
Being the first gig of the new tour, a topic of discussion while waiting in the arena was the possibility of a new song. That night we were given not one, but two new tracks, called “Identikit,” and “Cut a Hole.” Both seemed to have an undertone of R&B-esque backing beats, and extremely dynamic vocals. “Identikit” had layers upon layers of sound with a continuous vocal harmony between Thom and Ed. “Cut a Hole” was a bit slower, and showed off Thom’s voice and range, more like “Nude” does. Besides the two extremely applauded new songs, the set list was beautifully composed. Dusting off older tracks they played “Airbag,” and adored B-Sides, like “Meeting In The Aisle” (for the first time ever!) which slid right into a rare performance of “Kid A.” Other highlights included “Idioteque,” which along with
“Bodysnatchers” acted as a platform for Thom Yorke to dance his wildest, jumping and swinging spastically about the stage, his movements were infectious as the songs built to their climax’s.
“Give up the Ghost,” commenced the second encore, and though it was the slowest to start, the tender vulnerability and quiet lull of Thom and Jonny’s duet made it one of the most memorable. Show closer, “Karma Police” was just as bone chilling. As the enormous crowd sang at the top of their lungs the lyrics that are now embedded in our hearts forever, Thom smiled at the thousands of fans, knowing he wouldn’t have to encourage us to sing any louder. With the band in it’s entirety at the front of the stage, we chanted in unison the words that brought us all together, and walking off the stage, they too sang along “For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself…”
“Morning Mr. Magpie”
“Meeting in the Aisle”
“You and Whose Army?”
“Cut a Hole”
“Give Up the Ghost”