On Easter Monday, we loaded up the car and headed down to Seattle to see Radiohead kick off the second leg of their 2012 King Of Limbs tour. Expectations were high. I hadn’t seen the band since August of 2008 – the longest gap between Radiohead shows I’ve quietly endured in my 14 years of seeing them live. Setlists so far this year promised lots of new material and, like the band, I was keen to look forward not back over their career.
While I still love The Bends and OK Computer tremendously, everything I was most excited to hear was from The King Of Limbs, the subsequent “singles,” and the few new songs the band had been playing so far this year. Well, that’s a little bit of a lie. I was also really hoping to hear the old b-sides the band has resurrected for their first ever live performances this year: Meeting In The Aisle and The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy. I’d have to settle for hearing Meeting In The Aisle during soundcheck, with my head pressed up against the Key Arena glass prior to the show.
The band took the stage around 8:45 and kicked off with a stunning performance of Bloom. Featuring three drummers (Jonny on a mini-kit plus new touring man Clive Deamer accompanying Phil), the song is drastically different from its recorded counterpart but no less enthralling. As Thom sang the first line, “Open your mouth wiiiiiiiiiide” the crowd screamed back…mouths wide open. We were lucky to be up very close on the floor so we were instantly overwhelmed by the sheer size of Radiohead’s lights and visuals. The entire back wall, constructed out of old plastic bottles, lit up in greens and blues, evoking the marine imagery of Bloom.
From there the band tore through a couple other album openers in 15 Step and Airbag. The former, perhaps due to the presence of an extra drummer, is even a better live song now than it was back on the In Rainbows tour. Thom, not saddled with a guitar, also used 15 Step to dance all over the stage, engaging the crowd with a mischievous smile and occasional preening.
Little By Little and Morning Mr Magpie, two of TKOL‘s more guitar-y songs, were even more so live. Magpie in particular was all forward momentum until the fantastic breakdown before the final push to its endpoint. The Daily Mail, released digitally late last year, was one of the songs I was most hoping to hear and it followed a beautiful performance of Pyramid Song. What began with just Thom on the piano exploded to life as both Ed and Jonny crush the song with guitars. In many ways, it’s the closest the band have come to a sound close to The Bends or OK Computer in a very long time.
These Are My Twisted Words followed that and was another I was really hoping to hear (wasn’t very optimistic we’d get it though). The long intro required Thom and Jonny to watch each other (and a cheat sheet on stage) to nail all the chord changes. The song isn’t the most dynamic song in Radiohead’s catalogue but it’s one that has really grown on me since it was released in 2009 and it was one of the night’s highlights for me. A beautiful, beautiful version of Nude followed and provided a moment of stillness (even the lights were static for the duration of its performance) before the final push to the show’s climax.
Identikit, one of three new songs the band are playing live so far this year (the others: Cut A Hole and Skirting On The Surface), continues to improve with every performance. The song’s middle section, which features Thom on a synth, is really incredible and I can’t wait to hear how they tackle this one in the studio. It’s also a great spotlight for Ed’s vocals as his counterpoint to Thom’s voice is unlike anything the band has done before. Lotus Flower followed and, predictably, was the new song that the crowd responded to with the most enthusiasm. Jonny really boosts the power of this one on stage.
The main set then ended with a thunderous There There and a manic performance of Feral before closing with Idioteque. I’m not sure if Idioteque has ever sounded better live and the bright lights really made this one stand out in a set full of great performances.
The band returned for the first encore. Up to this point, all shows but one had featured Separator as the first encore’s opening song, but, sadly for me (it’s one of my favourites) the band decided to replace it on Monday with How To Disappear Completely. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song (in fact, it’s the most played song in my iTunes library) but I’ve seen it plenty before. It was, admittedly, a beautiful performance. Three fan favourites then followed: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, You And Whose Army? (which, thankfully, Thom still uses to vamp for the cameras on stage), and Lucky (just the second and final song from OKC).
Encore 2 began, as it usually does, with just Thom and Jonny performing Give Up The Ghost. As Thom looped his vocal, Jonny provided a gentle guitar accompaniment and it was another quiet, beautiful moment. Reckoner, one of the finest songs the band has ever written followed. Thom dedicated the song to Jonny who was playing through a very hurt hand in Seattle. The show then ended with Everything In Its Right Place, a perfect end to what was a very memorable night. I never tire of hearing that one live for some reason.
While I was hoping for some songs I didn’t get to hear, I have no complaints about the show. The band were in great spirits and played exceptionally all night. Clive Deamer’s addition has been completely seamless, and with Colin anchoring the rhythm section with his bass, every song was propulsive and deep. Jonny, as always, impressed with the guitar (still slaying Airbag, all these years later) while Thom’s vocals were pretty much perfect. Add to that the best lights/visuals the band has ever done and it all adds up to an incredible show.
Little By Little
Morning Mr Magpie
The Daily Mail
These Are My Twisted Words
How To Disappear Completely
You And Whose Army?
Give Up The Ghost
Everything In Its Right Place
- The band soundchecked Supercollider and Meeting In The Aisle earlier in the day (as well as 15 Step, Everything In Its Right Place, Identikit and a couple others). Meeting In The Aisle was actually soundchecked three times in a row so it seems like it will get back into setlists at some point. In fact, the first encore for last night’s gig was intended to go: Arpeggi/Meeting In The Aisle/Lucky/Bodysnatchers but the band changed it up at the last minute.
- Nothing from The Bends
- No live debuts or tour debuts for Seattle
The lateness of this post is no reflection on my lack of excitement about the gig. But writing for At Ease (here’s the Seattle report) has kept me pretty busy this week along with the arrival of my oldest friend’s first child. Let’s see if I can actually get some content up here over the next little while.