In many ways, writing a Radiohead concert review is somewhat redundant. What do you want to know about last night’s O2 Arena show ? That they were mesmeric? That they played two songs each from OK Computer and The Bends? (Airbag, Street Spirit, Paranoid Android and Planet Telex)…
Strangely enough last night was my first time seeing Radiohead live in concert. Where have I been all this time?
Actually, I do know the answer to that question. I have always been a few years behind them, trying to catch up.
I knew Creep of course, which slotted neatly into the genre so expertly described in by Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher in Clueless as “Complaint Rock” (Indeed, Fake Plastic Trees was on the Clueless soundtrack). OK Computer was the record that made me sit up and take notice, especially Paranoid Android – still one of the most exciting songs to ever be named after a robot (That’s not damning it with faint praise – there are quite a few: Iron Man, Grinder, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 2 et al…). I was very happy they played it last night.
Then came Kid A.
I was excited about Kid A. I tuned into Radio 1 to hear the first play. I wanted OK Computer part 2. I expected more build up, more drums, more guitar, more cowbell – more anything apart from this droning ambient, well – what was it? This one had electronically generated vocals. A drum machine. Believe me, in 2000 I was not ready to hear a Radiohead album with a drum machine, previously the exclusive preserve of 2Unlimited and Kylie and Jason.
It was like being told Led Zeppelin were reforming. With The Pet Shop Boys.
I was expecting a new Star Wars film. I got The Origin of Jar Jar Binks.
The nation hadn’t groaned with disappointment so much since George Michael announced he wouldn’t release Listen Without Prejudice Part 2.
I was in Denial at first. It couldn’t be Radiohead surely? Then Anger. What are they playing at?! What is this?! I felt like Bargaining. I wanted an album with guitars in it. Anthemic. Not mesmeric. Maybe if the next one has some guitars in it, and they play all their old stuff I’ll let them go on this electronica diversion, I thought. Get it out of their system.
This brought on Depression. I sulked. I may even have stamped my feet. I swore off Radiohead – until they realised the error of their ways. Of course, what I didn’t realise at the time was that Radiohead were right and I was wrong. I only realised this when Radiohead offered me an olive branch.
“Pay what you think it’s worth”…
Given the disappointment of the last three albums, I was cautious. I paid 79p for In Rainbows because (based on iTunes pricing) that was how many tracks I thought I’d enjoy from it. I feel bad about that now (or I did until I paid for the vinyl copy of King of Limbs). I did it because I thought that Radiohead had betrayed me. That their head had been turned by a younger, prettier femme fatale called Electronica. They hadn’t. They had just moved on. It was time for me to do so too. Slowly, In Rainbows crept towards the top of my ‘played’ count in iTunes. Finally came Acceptance. It was a great record. They hadn’t jumped the shark. But perhaps they might have done if they hadn’t released Kid A. I listened back to that and Amnesiac too, and seven years after the event recognised how good they were.
Last night, in their two-and-a-quarter hour set, and surrounded by video screens straight out of Aha’s Take On Me video, Radiohead opened with Lotus Flower, Airbag, Bloom, a beautiful Daily Mail (which is not a phrase you will see often) Myxomatosis and Bodysnatchers. They played a bass-heavy The Gloaming and Separator. We heard Videotape, Nude, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, Reckoner and There There, an amazing National Anthem, Feral, and Paranoid Android. Then followed Give Up The Ghost, I Might be Wrong, Planet Telex, a rocky version of Mr Magpie, Street Spirit, Staircase, some of True Love Waits, Everything In It’s Right Place and Idioteque. It was great. They were great. The entire arena was on it’s feet by the end.
I’m sorry Radiohead. It wasn’t you – it was me…I’m a creep….
Record #102: Radiohead – Paranoid Android