Published by JB on April 6, 2017
Revenge of the Nerds!
It’s a paradox really that Radiohead, arguably the greatest rock band in the world, is made up of five individuals that could just as easily be teaching a music course at Berkley. They’re the anti-rock star Rock Stars of the planet. We don’t find them spending 18 months in drug rehab centers; they aren’t blowing through supermodels; and they aren’t breaking up, getting back together, losing a bass player and then reuniting for a nostalgia tour.
For more than two decades now there’s been no tabloid grabbing in-band drama. Just new experimental music for the ages. Music for an entire generation that fills those gaps in our imagination that other bands just can’t quite fill. They aren’t dropping new albums obnoxiously into our iTunes library. They aren’t playing shows with full album run throughs from yesteryear. They just make new music and they do it better than anyone else.
Radiohead barely tours aside from an occasional festival headliner. This time they’re playing a 9-date game of Frogger across the United States; dropping in again at the Sprint Center (they played here also in the spring of 2012) in Kansas City for their lone midwest date of the “tour”. The 19,000 capacity Sprint Center sold out in days.
Ironically, Radiohead plays it largely by the numbers in their elite live shows. Where there album releases are intimate, complex, often challenging affairs – their live shows are generally the same from the perspective of providing a career-wide glimpse of their material; relying heavily on the most recent. The 2017 shows differ only slightly from the 2012 gigs. The light show is generally the same, both hypnotic and beautiful, with the only difference being the obvious; a well represented collection of A Pool Shaped Moon tracks throughout the set. Tracks from The Bends get meshed together with King of Limbs tracks. Crowd favorites such as ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ show their brute strength in the live setting. Old tracks flourish with the 2017 live production, versus the 1995 CD technology most of us recognize these tracks from. Plugged into some fresh amps the 1990’s favorites come alive every bit as much as ‘Burn The Witch’ does in the first encore (and yes, there were three).
The encore medley of ‘Give Up The Ghost / Burn The Witch / Reckoner / Fake Plastic Trees’ is the evenings highlight, showcasing the band’s most telling and ongoing strength; Thom Yorke’s angelic voice. At his best vocally Yorke is nearly peerless, albeit a small handful (Jim James comes to mind). His falsetto delivery vibrates through the cascading layers of instruments seemingly oblivious to them. Yorke’s voice doesn’t simply compliment the beautiful Jonny Greenwood arrangements and the impeccable musicianship onstage, it soars above them all. His anti-rock star delivery is the evening’s most signature and remarkable sound, providing the common denominator for 26 years of Radiohead greatness.
We’re really going to miss this band, someday. Treasure these times.