review | Radiohead at the HP Pavilion


It’d been years since I’d last gone to a huge stadium show. The whole process and experience has burned me in the past (the overcrowding, the crappy vantage points, the “something for everyone” approach bands need to uphold when performing for tens of thousands), so these particular types of shows have quickly dropped off my radar. But when an opportunity to see Radiohead at the HP Pavilion in San Jose arose, I quickly changed my tune—and I’m sure glad I did.

Oklahoma-based five-piece Other Lives opened the evening with an agreeable blend of moody Americana and orchestral indie rock. Jesse Tabish, the band’s front man, confidently carried the often plaintive songs with a rich and warm voice that sometimes spiked up to a haunting falsetto, while other members contributed tasteful arrangements via keys, strings and lots of spirited percussion. What the band may have lacked in regard to the forward-thinking ambition of what was to follow, it more than made up for with sturdy songwriting and an attention to atmosphere, making it a plenty successful table-setter for the rest of the night.

It’s tough at this point in Radiohead’s career to reflect back on the specific moments that have somehow seamlessly transitioned the band from a young Brit-pop upstart to its current role as the elder statesman of modern art-rock. And while the group focused heavily on its most recent albums—the heavily rhythm-based In Rainbows and The King of Limbs—some surprises along the way illuminated just how wide in scope its decade-spanning run really is.

Taking the stage amidst a long bout of applause, Thom Yorke (looking like a ratty Frank T.J. Mackey) and company opened somewhat predictably with “Bloom,” the first track from The King of Limbs. Right off the bat, my arena phobias were squashed (helped along by the awesome sound/visual quality), as I settled into the beginning of the band’s two hour, 23 song set. Yorke launched into his awkwardly endearing fits of dancing spasms, which he’d continue throughout the evening, while tracks like “Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little” flawlessly conveyed the intricate drum patterns and claustrophobic vibes of the new album. Phil Selway, the band’s rock of a drummer, was aided by an eerily similar-looking auxiliary drummer who performed on another kit across the stage from him. The dueling drum sets (in addition to Jonny Greenwood’s occasional percussion) helped make skittering beats and rhythm in general a heavy focus from song-to-song.

Fans of Kid A, the band’s first foray into the proggy mix of live and electronic experimentation it now employs, were treated to a couple of tracks early on in the form of the album’s title track and “The National Anthem.” The latter was probably the most visceral and raw moment of a mostly pristinely performed show, as the band tore through it at an awesomely hurried tempo that added to the dark groove of the song.

The rest of the set included both older favorites (“Karma Police” and the icy “Idioteque”) and new, just released online tracks such as “Daily Mail,” which Yorke described as a song he’d written years ago to predict the recent collapses of the banks and Wall Street.

Accolades need to be given to whoever conceived and executed the band’s visual setup, a seizure-inducing arrangement of about eight tile screens that hosted artful cut and paste snippets of live footage. Above a backdrop of Matrix code greens and deep, warm oranges, the screens were tilted and moved to different formations, projecting unique shots from what must have been a dozen or two cameras set up around the stage.

As the night began to wrap up, the group dug “Planet Telex” out for its second encore. The only song performed from 1995’s The Bends, the (relatively) straightforward track was a brief reminder that the Radiohead can still pull off anthemic guitar rock with the best of them, and sent audiences out on a perfectly nostalgic note.



Radiohead Official Website

Other Lives Official Website

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