Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weird Fishes

Radiohead
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Charlotte, NC

May 9, 2008

Now onto the Radiohead portion of the evening.....To begin I have to add the disclaimer that I'm not a huge Radiohead fan. I like them fine but they're not something I'm going to listen to on my own. H, however, loves them, and has loved them from day one. I remember vividly when Kid A was released. U was just a wee one, and H was so excited. He played the album for him all the time. One could say that U's early formation was framed by Radiohead (and T.S. Eliot but that's another story). We were supposed to see them at Bonnaroo a few years ago, had the tickets and everything but Piper was just too little for something that intense. Thus Radiohead playing Charlotte was a huge deal for H. We splurged on good tickets for this graduation present.

I have to admit that I was looking forward more to seeing Liars then Radiohead...but...well let me get into the show.

Like most arena performances I've attended, the crowd started pouring in after Liars. The lawn was just a mass of people, and most of the seats beneath the pavilion filled up rapidly. We had to scurry from our beer run to get to our seats in time. Of course it was a false alarm because these kind of crowds let up a cheer for every roadie that hits the stage. But we got to see the set which, even in the dark, looked pretty phenomenal. Huge metal pipes hung over the entire stage with a variety of instruments waiting to be played beneath and among them. As we sat waiting for the band, an ominous black cloud, which we named Armageddon, hung to the left of the left of the amphitheater.
When the lights hit the pipes, it was an amazing light show. The pipes looked like great dangling stars. The screen behind the pipes was the only screen on that night (making me glad we didn't end up with lawn seats). It was a spectacular entrance. They started with "All I need" which is one of my favorites off "In Rainbows." It was a bit faster but it still maintained that really beautiful, soulful feel. Yorke played the piano during this song.
But for the second song, maybe to ensure that we were not lulled into labeling the show too soon, they pulled out two small drum sets (which Johnny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien played), and roared into "There, There." Now I have to admit that roar is not the first adjective that normally comes into my mind for Radiohead. One reason I've never really been into them is that I find them too slow, not nearly loud enough, and kind of droney. But I was quickly disabused of this judgement after "There, There." This song was fast, loud, and fairly heavy (I mean they're not APTBS but hey who is?). The drumming was amazing, and considering it was coming from the guitarists? Wow.
Cameras attached to poles shot the band from above, giving weird distorted angles of various band members.
This is one of my favorites shots from the night. This is from "You and Whose Army." Throughout the song, Thom Yorke made these strange faces, really playing up the bug eye thing. It was almost comical.

But ever ones to keep the crowd guessing, the songs ranged from fast, heavy to slow, droney. And while I am not normally a big fan of the drone, Radiohead just does it so well. Bottom line they are very talented. They're music is seamless at this point. There are just no missteps. As a band they're totally insync with each other. They move from instrument to instrument with proficiency...they're not just dabbling with other instruments, they can actually play multiple instruments. And while one would think this would make them sound overly polished...they're not. I mean, they are polished but they're also fresh and a bit spontaneous. This crops up in Yorke's crazy dances--all elbows and knees. He gives new meaning to the idea that white boys can't dance. But he doesn't care. He's wrapped up in the music in that moment, and it takes away from the idea that these guys could do this in their sleep.
And while for the most part, I was not transported during this show...not transported in the way that say Liars, APTBS, or Destroyer moves me outside of myself into a place where there's just noise...I was caught up several times. During 15 steps, I danced like crazy, and felt moved...but it was just hard to get outside of the arena's atmosphere. I don't often long for drugs of let's say a psychedelic nature but this was one time when I did. There were a few people I'm willing to bet who were on their own little trip, and I can see why. Drugs were likely the one thing that could lift one away from the psychos working the arena.
And yeah a lot the problems I felt with getting transported was totally connected to the venue. It's hard to feel moved when you're surrounded by a bunch of people who a, talk through the whole show, or b, keep doing shit that gets them harassed by staff. Imagine: you're really into Paranoid Android (second encore), you're dancing, you're feeling the music course through you. Suddenly you hear "You need to put out that cigarette." This happens about ten times because the moron behind you with the cigarette is more interested in pissing off the security then listening to Radiohead. They don't really care that everyone around them is losing out too. And yeah it sucks that you can't smoke but Jesus, it's two feet to the smoking area. This was the whole night...
And the whole production is such a contrast to say the production of a small show. The light show was phenomenal but can you imagine the cost of this kind of thing? And I realized that one thing I really love about small shows is that it's about the music in ways that bigger productions aren't. Now Radiohead is an amazing band. They're good, very good, one of the best bands I've ever seen. But I wonder if they could really do a show with just them and their instruments? Yeah a small show but a stadium? They have the talent for sure (I'd love to see them in a small venue) but the crowd at this show wanted lights and smoke along with the music (as evident when they talked through all the slow songs). We were lucky because Radiohead was good but you know lights can cover up a sucky band in ways that they couldn't be covered up a small venue.

Now APTBS uses lights and fog to create an atmosphere but I can't imagine how that would translate to a stadium. The environment they created at the Grey Eagle was so intimate and strange...other worldly really. I didn't need drugs to be transported during that show. I was moved without the drugs. But at this level, with this kind of crowd, the sheer size of the area, necessities a stage set of mass scale.

Umberto said of this picture: They were trapped in rainbows!

But this what Radiohead has to work with...they're famous now. And all in all they converted this skeptic. They are amazing really just amazing live. I think my fustration comes from not just being able to hear them as intensely as they deserved. I'm already planning to revisit their albums.

1 comment:

optimistic said...

Well said, my friend!

I saw them in Dallas (I'm a rabid fan) and fell in love all over again.

I'd been looking forward to the show since March, and during their last oncore, it hit me. This was it. It was almost over.

Mild depression followed...

...I'm just now starting to bounce back.

Thanks for posting those beautiful pics though...it takes me there!

Love and Peace,
jr