Tuesday, March 6th 2012
A week ago, Radiohead kicked off their 2012 tour in support of The King of Limbs. Early critical reviews were mixed – some said the show was too boring, that the band wasn’t playing enough music from their early catalog, even complaints of the band making a number of mistakes during the show.
When the band stopped in Dallas on Monday, it was clear they were most certainly firing on all cylinders. It may have taken them a handful of shows to get there, but the concert has been tightened up, rearranged; Claiming that it’s been perfected might be a little extreme but this was certainly a showcase of a band currently in their prime as a live act.
Illuminated by a towering screen, tubes of light and ten or so hanging HD monitors, the band walked out one by one. Taking their places at their respective instruments, Thom Yorke was last, visibly excited to be there and seemingly trying to stop himself from smiling too much.
Right away the band was off with a one-two punch of TKOL material, opening with Bloom before transitioning into Little By Little. The latter really came to life, a new sense of soul appearing by cranking up the bass and drums while simultaneously allowing Thom Yorke’s falsetto to really shine.
Suddenly the stage lights turned into a giant wash of blue and white swirling ribbons, and In Rainbows favorite Weird Fishes/Arpeggi began. The track’s mechanical sounding drums filtered out over the crowd as thousands of people joined in a sing-a-long, both with Yorke’s lead vocal part and Ed O’Brien’s haunting, chant-like backing vocals. It was an early highlight of the set.
A few tracks later Thom sat down at his piano for both The Daily Mail and Amnesiac’s Pyramid Song. The former didn’t seem to go over well, but the Amnesiac-era Pyramid Song brought the crowd back in. Cell phone screens peppered the venue in huge numbers, everyone trying to capture the song’s somber string arrangement and haunting chord progression as it blanketed over the entire arena.
Next up was a real treat – a Pyramid Song b-side titled The Amazing Sounds of Orgy, played live for the first time ever. The song’s shuffling drum work and seriously creepy synth lines seemed to wow the entire audience, impressing even those unfamiliar with the track. If you’d like to check it out for yourself you can do so right here.
At the first several shows of the tour, Karma Police was played as the final song. In Dallas they played much earlier in the set, probably coming as a form of relief for casual fans who were holding out for a song they recognized. For a band that claims they are tired of playing “hits,” the band seemed to take pride in the track, leading it as a crowd sing-a-long with an entire arena full of people joining in.
15 Step was next, another massive crowd pleaser. It became clear that many, many concertgoers were either inebriated or simply lacked rhythm – no one within earshot of me was capable of clapping along to the song’s beat, even with Ed O’Brien on stage trying his best to educate the Texas crowd.
The band has continued to play the new, still unreleased Identikit and it was another highlight of the Dallas show. A skittering drum track drove the track while swirling synths filled out the sound. Short guitar licks punctuated Yorke’s vocals while pulsating green lights provided the visual component of the performance. Quality stuff.
The main set ended with Idioteque, driven by Yorke’s vocals and the track’s signature pounding rhythm section. The music almost took a backseat to the track’s ridiculous light show, with alternate patterns of green and yellow surging from the screen. Towards the middle of the song, the light show turned into a distorted rainbow, flashing every color imaginable perfectly in time with the song’s final, noisy climax.
Idioteque marked the end of the main set, but the band was quickly back out for the first of two encores. Kicking off with the stellar Separator from TKOL, the band quickly ran through a handful of other tracks including OK Computer’s Climbing Up the Walls, which made it’s tour debut.
After Bodysnatchers, Yorke played a snippet of True Love Waits which subsequently morphed into Everything In Its Right Place. Hearing Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood chop up Yorke’s vocals as he was performing live came across as very impressive, and deservedly, the band received perhaps the loudest applause of the night at the song’s end.
The second encore opened up with Give Up the Ghost, which kind of stalled and failed to ever gain momentum. It was too long, too repetitive and most in the crowd didn’t seem to be into it.
Skirting On the Surface has shown up during solo Thom Yorke shows, but Monday night’s performance marked the first time Radiohead has played it live. It’s a decent tune but not a highlight of the set unless you are a hardcore fan who’s been waiting to hear it by the full band.
After a near perfect version of Reckoner, Yorke introduced the final song of the night to deafening applause – Paranoid Android. It made for a powerful closer, creating yet another opportunity for everyone in the crowd, even the most casual of fans, to sing along.
As one of the few real “hits” played during the night, Paranoid Android was probably another saving grace for those casual fans that had attended the show. Even those hardcore fans that claim to be “tired” of Radiohead’s more popular music can’t deny how special and breathtaking the track’s breakdown is, and it’s chill-inducing to hear several thousand people singing along with the track. Probably one of the greatest closers I’ve ever seen at a show.
Make no mistake about it; If you are merely a casual fan of the band and expect and/or want to hear only the most popular songs, this is not the show for you. It’s filled with new songs, rarities and older material that hasn’t even been played live, a show for those hardcore fans who have stuck with Radiohead throughout all of the stylistic and musical changes. The band stayed pretty true to the studio versions of the songs, but when paired with the impressive visual show it makes for a one-of-a-kind concert.
Bloom, Little By Little, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Morning Mr. Magpie, The Gloaming, The Daily Mail, Pyramid Song, The Amazing Sounds of Orgy, Karma Police, 15 Step, Staircase, Identikit, Lotus Flower, There There, Feral, Idioteque
Encore: Separator, Climbing Up the Walls, Bodysnatchers, Everything In Its Right Place
Encore 2: Give Up the Ghost, Skirting On The Surface, Reckoner, Paranoid Android