Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

Radiohead @ Verizon Center (6/3/12)

ImageFor a superstar, A-list band, Radiohead is still held by its fans as the little indie band that could. How else to explain the number of people who actually paid to download the freely available In Rainbows? The love is reciprocal, as the band has stuck to its indie ideals throughout its two decades together, even if that meant creating “music” that alienated mainstream followers (like me) who never graduated past (the incredibly overrated) OK Computer. So the idea of seeing them in concert was simultaneously and worrisome; given every great review of a Radiohead show I’ve heard, I was concerned that I was merely hearing from the converted. Not being a huge fan myself, and lacking an intimate knowledge of their catalogue, I challenged Radiohead to impress me based purely on performance. I was in the perfect position to be won over. And I was. But not for the reasons I expected.

Opening act Caribou put on the kind of atmospheric light-show that would have been perfect for the 9:30 Club or Black Cat. Unfortunately, the mammoth bowels of the Verizon Center zapped most of the effect. Radiohead received the standard hero’s welcome, as the crowd roared its approval for every intro. Epitomizing the fanbase were two large, unshaven gentlemen in front of us, both wearing overalls and reminding me of the infamous McGuire twins sans motorcycles. During each song (which they heartily sang along to), one would offer up his hands in prayer to the heavens, and the other would respond by making it rain. These gestures were as animated as the crowd got, unsurprising given that Radiohead’s repertoire is not exactly Tom Petty sing-along style. Obviously, the only two songs that I knew (“Airbag” and “Paranoid Android”) were the only ones that stuck out for me. The rest of the songs were interesting enough, but given the band’s disdain for hummable melodies or standard song structures, nothing was going to get stuck in my head.

Visually, however, it was the most stunning show I have ever seen. The band played against a screen backdrop- not so unusual. However, the specialty came from a series of smaller screens hanging above the stage that moved up and down, sideways, even at one point all planking above the band. The camera angles were not standard face or instrument shots, but rather came from angles at the side, on the floor, or behind an amp. Colors brightened and faded as the screens shone their projections outwards. It was almost impossible to watch the actual performance, given the captivating swirl of digital activity happening simultaneously. For an expert fan, it may have distracted from the songs, but for an amateur, it was the perfect complement to the wall-of-sound musical performance from a major league band that still wants to think it is playing in the minors.


 

Set List:

  1. Bloom
  2. Airbag
  3. Kid A
  4. Bodysnatchers
  5. Staircase
  6. Codex
  7. Meeting in the Aisle
  8. The National Anthem
  9. Nude
  10. Morning Mr. Magpie
  11. Identikit
  12. Lotus Flower
  13. Go to Sleep
  14. The Gloaming
  15. Feral
  16. There There

Encore:

  1. You and Whose Army?
  2. 15 Step
  3. Supercollider
  4. Paranoid Android

Encore 2:

  1. Give Up the Ghost
  2. Separator
  3. Reckoner
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