Been a while since Radiohead came through the Bay Area, and it'll probably be another while before they return. (Thom Yorke played at the Fox in April, but that doesn't count.) Looks like several more months of putting their discography on shuffle and watching 7 Television Commercials on endless loop, huh?
That's right! A loose consortium of European Radioheadheads has come along to answer the prayers you probably didn't know you were saying: enter the unassumingly titled and utterly free Radiohead Live in Praha, released to the wild wild web earlier this week. Following the model of the Beastie Boys' fan-filmed live movie Awesome! I Fuckin' Shot That!, it gathers footage shot by over sixty fans from the same concert in Prague last year. It took a year to edit it all together, apparently, but it does right by its avowed mission: "to capture the band playing using as many different angles as possible."
So how is it? It's pretty good, not great. The set list is long and stuffed with crowd-pleasers, at least a couple songs from each album (except that disowned first child, Pablo Honey) and almost all of In Rainbows; "Lucky" is a particular pleasure, as is the steely groove of the recent and as-yet-rootless single "These Are My Twisted Words." The sound is legit -- Radiohead graciously lent their own recording of the show for the project, which is a godsend when you consider that the alternative is 60-plus cell phone video recordings harmonized in GarageBand or something -- and the lights are on the right side of the divide between colorful and seizure-inducing. Having seen a 2008 variant of the same set, with the same bad-ass hanging light pillars and everything, I'll vouch for its accuracy, minus the ticket price and the clapping-related hand fatigue and the all-around sensation of being packt like a sardine in a crushd tin amphitheater.
That said, Radiohead doesn't have such on-stage magnetism or complex interplay that you don't start to miss being surrounded by a throng of fellow fans, singing and swaying along to every jittery rhythmic conniption. Live in Praha is impressive above all as a feat of collaborative filmmaking, but probably not impressive enough to sustain two hours -- toward the end of which Yorke's voice starts to settle on whiny mode -- if you wouldn't have paid to go see Radiohead anyway. If it's an artful, thought-provoking concert film you're looking for, go see Mogwai's Burning tomorrow night at the Roxie instead. But if you have any affection for the most important band of this generation, or even the smallest jones to see Thom Yorke writhe around the stage like a lazy-eyed little woodland sprite, free up a couple gigs of space, find a projector and a blank wall, and check it out.