Thursday, September 29, 2011

Radiohead at Roseland Ballroom

I feel compelled to post something, anything, about the Radiohead show last night, but I’m totally exhausted from last night and not totally thinking straight. But I’ll give it a shot.

The whole thing was a circus at first, a line stretching all the way around Roseland Ballroom as 4,000 people lined up to get in for the will-call only tickets. It was set up that way to foil scalpers, but I think the amount of hassles it created with that line and people swearing at Ticketmaster because they couldn’t get tickets might have made the effort a wash. There were reports of people selling tickets for $2K. Sure, that’s greedy but I wasn’t one of the people on a pedestal about how odious it was: if someone was willing to pay that much to go see Radiohead and dude wants to sell his other ticket, I don’t care. Capitalism, baby. And people cursing about Ticketmaster? I got no love for Ticketmaster, but WTF, Radiohead told them to sell the 4,000 tickets in a certain way, probably a million people called trying to get tickets, and most of them didn’t. Sowwy. Pretty comical all the forlorn Radiohead fans waiting along the line with signs begging, pleading, and offering sundry favors for someone’s extra ticket.

Anyway, the show. I’m a Radiohead fan, for sure. To me they track something like Wilco: started as a fairly straightforward rock-band (alt-country versus Brit-rock) and then progressed through a series of different albums to push boundaries and radically evolve in an exciting way. (Actually, kind of reminds me of the progression of the Beastie Boys on their first three albums.) But I realized pretty early on in the Radiohead set that what I was getting wasn’t what I really love about the band. They had two drummers and an extra guitarist with them and it was a ROCK show, dig? Some of songs really worked that way, like the stuff off OK Computer— “Subterranean Homesick Alien” was one of the highlights of the show for me. But other songs, like “Lotus Flower”, my favorite on the new album, King of Limbs, I didn’t enjoy live as much. There’s a kind of arid simplicity to Radiohead’s electronic stuff that courses with energy but I found got washed out in a bigger context.

One of the cooler moments of the show was Thom Yorke at the piano surprising everyone by launching into R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” as a kind of shout-out to the band, who just broke up after three decades. But I didn’t even recognize “Everything in its Right Place” when he went into it from the R.E.M. melody, again it didn’t sound quite right to me. “All I Need” was another song of theirs I really like but I found fell flat, even though I could hear that song being really epic in that context. On the other hand, “Bloom”, the first track on King of Limbs, and "Bodysnatchers", from Hail to the Thief, were awesome. On “Give up the Ghost” he sampled his own vocals (or someone did it for him) and that worked really well, reminded me of what I’ve seen Brandon Cox do with Atlas Sound. The second encore seemed really spontaneous, it looked like the show was over and then they came back and played two more songs that everyone went nuts for.

Thom Yorke is really charismatic and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. I knew he was the centerpiece of the band but none of the other players stood out to me, they all seem a supporting cast to Yorke. I admire the way he acts as a conductor to the whole band, his sense of rhythm is really amazing, actually; he’s got this campy tramp shtick going on, it’s cool.

That was a big portion of the whole night for me, just how much of a super big-deal this was to so many people. I looked around and saw so many white people aged 25-45 (my milieu, I guess) who seriously love this band, knew all the songs, and felt just a bit special for seeing one of the biggest bands in the world in a small setting. It felt privileged, something cool to be part of.

8 comments:

CS said...

I'm jealous. I've only seen them twice, both times in big outdoor venues (once in Chicago and a couple of years ago in Liberty Park). I'll say this, the Liberty Park concert was the best sounding outdoor show I've ever been to in my life. And... AND Radiohead was superb. I can, however, feel what you're saying about the more outre stuff changing in sometimes sub-optimal ways when they go all rawk. It's funny though, I came away from that Liberty Park much more enamored with the rhythm section than Yorke or the guitarists. Which surprised me based on the live vids I'd seen of them.

rootless said...

huh, that's interesting. Johnny Greenwood was well on the other side of the stage and packed like sardines in there I couldn't watch him much. But I felt it was all about Thom Yorke, dude's hysterical.

Pete said...

Did you catch Four Tet?

rootless said...

no, unfortunately I didn't. I thought they were going on second but I heard they/he were/was on as people were walking. I forgot the name of the band that I saw open.

Pete said...

I'll have to wait till they come around again in 2012. Hopefully they hit Madison Square Garden or the Izod Center. I was too busy this time around. I suspected a show would happen as soon as I heard they were going to be on SNL. I'd really have liked to see them in such a small venue though. Those shows are much more special. I'll still never forget seeing the Beastie Boys at Coney Island High in 95. A secret show as they were billed as Quasar.

tj said...

Jealous +1.

I saw Thom do that sample, loop thing on "Give up the Ghost" when Atoms for Peace was touring. Along with the vocal build, a knock on his guitar turned into a percussion loop. Very cool. (Have't seen Atlas Sound live...and hearing that makes me want to.)

You can get a little taste of the 2 drummer thing they've been doing on the From the Basement recordings for The King Of Limbs. One song has a 3rd drummer (Thom) in the mix.

Are you guys hip to that From the Basement series? Some very cool stuff. I'll have to do a follow-up post.

Scatterbrain said...
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Scatterbrain said...
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