Live: Radiohead at Roseland, Night Two

09/30/2011 11:45 AM |


And it just feels like, spinning plates…

Radiohead
Live, @ Roseland Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan
September 29, 2011

It was the fourth song before I remembered that I really liked Radiohead. Prior to that, and despite the initial excitement that the pre- and post-millennial icons were playing an “intimate gig” in a 3,000-plus capacity midtown theater and the subsequent anguish over the inability of most fans to even get into the room, it was easy to feel a wee bit disillusioned.

By 9 PM, the venue floor was a barely porous brick of people, all talking over a noisier than expected set from Four Tet. A brief attempt to investigate the side aisle was like one of those gut-churning documentaries about spelunking, where explorers keep going on for some reason as the caves narrow perilously. Falling back to the merch stand, you couldn’t help but note that Radiohead, anti-capitalist sloganeers, self-releasing their material for a bigger slice of sales than ever, were soaking their fans for $40 t-shirts on top of the Ticketmaster fees paid on a $65 dollar ticket. Quite a few people wore their pricey tees immediately, a bit of conspicuous consumption that you’d think Thom Yorke would hate. Ryan Reynolds and John C. Reilly were spotted heading for the VIP balcony, to join what was probably a full US Weekly spread’s worth of their colleagues. (A lot of kicking, screaming Gucci little piggies in the room, basically.) To paraphrase one of the band’s formative influences, they might ask themselves, “Well, how did I get here?” But then “The National Anthem” started, and it was like: oh, right.

Before that, opening with three songs from King of Limbs and beyond, it was a little hard to love. Flummoxed fans have rallied around the “it’s all about the rhythm now, man” defense. That perception has been bolstered by the addition second cue-ball drummer Clive Beamer—so much a Phil Selway doppelganger that the stage looked like a Michel Gondry video in progress. But, man, when the bassline dropped on “The National Anthem” (standing in for Kid A’s horn skronk) all those KOL beats were significantly outclassed. That record, released earlier this year, still feels pretty weak. “Lotus Flower”, which came later in the set, has morphed into its swaggering live anthem, and the gentle “Good Morning, Mr. Magpie” is now an improbably thumping rave-up. The material’s clearly better live. But even Thom Yorke’s amusing Ed Grimley dance can’t save something as tuneless as “Feral”. Those songs displace some real classics. The set featured only one song from OK Computer (“Subterranean Homesick Alien”, like last night), two from Kid A, one from Amnesiac (a very welcome “Like Spinning Plates”), and one from Hail to the Thief (the always creepy/awesome “Myxomatosis”), with The Bends stiffed completely. “Everything in its Right Place” continues on as one of the most improbable stadium-sized sing-alongs of all time. Remember how alien that sounded on play one in 2000? Remember how strange it sounded last night when yelled back at the stage by a few thousand people?

While there may be only two colors in our heads, there were many on stage. A pretty spectacular array of sophisticated LED lights ran to the ceiling, pulsing and morphing as the night went on. The prismatic lights were appropriate for a set utterly dominated by material from 2007’s In Rainbows. Absent old, OMG, lose-your-mind hits from their catalog, these were the ones everyone in the room glommed onto. The main set and both encores were closed with songs from that album. “Reckoner” closed the first set, gentle and complex. “Bodysnatchers” ended the first encore, pounding and blissful, their only recent rock epic. “Nude”, lovely and deflated as always, was the show’s last (and deserved to be). These songs are already very beloved, even the gawky ones. (Hearing people attempt to sing along to the avant-jazzy “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is kind of horrifying, actually.) New song, “The Daily Mail”, edged in among them as another highlight. A slow builder that explodes towards the end, a la “You and Whose Army”, it’s come a long way since bare, early live performances. lt’ll probably be a staple for years to come. Yorke had to shush the crowd a bit at its start, and chattiness persisted through out the night, weird for such a coveted ticket. All these beefy Joisey dudes gotta gab it up! (I’ll admit though, when Yorke announced “The Daily Mail” and some guy behind me yelled out, “This one’s called the Star-Ledger!” I giggled pretty hard.) As anyone who saw the band in the late nineties can attest, when they used to play something quiet like “Exit Music (For a Film)”, you could have heard a pin drop. Their recent output certainly has its merits, but the hushed reverence they once demanded has diminished. Still, there’s never been any real, concentrated backlash, which is some kind of miracle in the Internet age. Even waiting in vain for the songs they fell so over-the-top in love with, people are just not cynical when it comes to Radiohead. It’s kinda crazy. And yeah, my feelings about the song selection notwithstanding, pretty damn impressive.

Radiohead – “Nude”

Radiohead – “The Daily Mail”

Setlist

Bloom
Little by Little
Staircase
The National Anthem
Feral
Subterranean Homesick Alien
Like Spinning Plates
All I Need
(True Love Waits tease)
Everything in its Right Place
15 Step
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Lotus Flower
Codex
The Daily Mail
Morning Mr. Magpie
Reckoner

Give Up the Ghost
Myxomatosis
Bodysnatchers

Supercollider
Nude

6 Comment

  • This is one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever had to read. Keep it simple, dude.

  • I’ll give it to you in two, if you’re in a real Internet-reading hurry: They played some songs but not the best ones. For anti-capitalists, they seem a little greedy.

  • I was near some of the chattiest dudes I’ve ever witnessed at any show. One guy even took a pic of the setlist before the show started and took it upon himself to not just announce each song coming up, but to bitch that he already heard most of the songs the night before. And his buddy was fist-pumping. FIST-PUMPING?! Can you say douche?

  • All this talk of trying to deter scalping so that “real fans” can see the show is ridiculous. I had to move four times on the first night because of the chatters. It was mind boggling. So these chatters are the “real fans”? Lots of shhhhing going on wednesday night but none by Thom Yorke. Thats practically embarassing! Next time you should have to show proof of residencey to keep the Jersey boys out.

  • This truly is the big time! Not that you weren’t already big time in my book! I listen nightly and look forward to the discussions of all things political, economical, creative and beyond.
    Cheap Radiohead Tickets