Radiohead Live at Philips
Another sold out stop on the U.S. Tour
Review by Gail Fountain
Playing an indoor arena for the first time ever in Atlanta, Radiohead took on the task and accomplished it well. There were a couple of instances when the sound seemed to overwhelm the arena, but that was minimal and acceptable considering the massive sounds created and that it was only the third arena show of the tour. And lead singer Thom Yorke lost control of a note or two, but that only proved it was live. The only other time Radiohead even played an inside venue in Atlanta was at Masquerade’s Heaven in 1995, and that was so packed that people were literally climbing the walls to see the band from the back of the room.
Carrying on the tradition set in 2008, Radiohead played in front of $1,000,000 LED lights and, at this show, punched up the visual presentation even more by adding multiple giant screens that hung above their heads by heavy cables and turned every which way but toward the backing lights. Those screens displayed each band member except during “You and Whose Army?” where the pony-tailed Yorke explained “I’ll be cheesing” before singing the taunting crowd favorite as the screens took parts of his face and broke it up into jumbled pieces.
Overall, it was a satisfying show, although a bit on the slow side musically, which is surprising considering Yorke’s sometime dubstep-style influences. Perhaps his nights playing DJ in LA have allowed Radiohead to step away from that, or perhaps the 42-year-old can only do his crazy dancing for so long while trying to sing and alternately play guitar, piano or keyboards.
The entire band seemed quite happy and well-rehearsed. Ed O’Brien’s backing vocals seemed smoother than Yorke’s, and O’Brien’s guitar playing and floor-based effects and sampling were spot on. Jonny Greenwood actually took some long breaks near the end of the set at the beginnings of songs, hugging his guitar while watching the rest of the band or the audience. Before that, in typical fashion, Jonny Greenwood worked very hard, alternating between a small set of drums, keyboards, patch bay samplers, floor-based effects machines and samplers, groove box, piano, organ, bass synth and lead guitar. He even played a string bow on his electric guitar during the first part of “Pyramid Song.” Meanwhile, his brother Colin played bass excellently, either blending completely into the song or becoming the star of the song, as on “Myxomatosis.” He also occasionally played keyboards that seemed to be something other than a bass synth. Although Philip Selway did an amazing job playing like a drum machine singularly on the 2008 tour, his drumming was augmented on about two thirds of the night’s twenty-two songs with the drumming of Clive Deamer, who has played with Portishead and Robert Plant. Together, Selway and Deamer carried out complicated time signatures with ease.