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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Live Review, 4/11/12: Radiohead Moves to the Beat in San Jose

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 2:57 AM

Radiohead in San Jose last night. - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Radiohead in San Jose last night.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

HP Pavilion, San Jose

Better than: The way you will dance to weird rhythms when you are 43 and have two kids.

Maybe "dancing" isn't quite the right word for it, but whatever you want to call that moving thing Thom Yorke does to the music Radiohead makes these days, let's all be really grateful that it happens. Onstage in San Jose last night, Yorke stopped his jigging, bouncing, and limb-shaking only when seated behind a keyboard or saddled with a guitar. The rest of the time, his jester-like figure -- curt ponytail, scraggly beginnings of a beard, comical skinny red pants, plain vest -- fluttered around like a bird that had just eaten a jumping bean.

This movement is important, because it tells you where Yorke -- and by extension Radiohead -- are at. After the general loathing of the OK Computer era, and the isolated gloom of Kid A and Amnesiac, Yorke (and the band) seem to have found their footing in The Beat. Last night in San Jose, The Beat was a prism through which Radiohead focused many of its best songs, including, of course, selections from that rhythm-heavy new album, King of Limbs.

  • Christopher Victorio

When the recorded versions of songs didn't have beats, like "Everything in its Right Place," Radiohead added them (in that case, a four-on-the-floor pulse!) -- demonstrating in the process that this really is a band best experienced live. And the complex rhythms that underpin some more recent songs got a full-throated airing onstage, with two drummers and times when even more band members found something to bang on. So "Lotus Flower," the King of Limbs single whose video is basically Yorke doing his freak-dance for some five minutes, was just immensely satisfying -- far more visceral and heartfelt than the cold recorded version would lead you to believe. (And of course Yorke jerked around like mad throughout the song.)

Radiohead demonstrated its rock side, too: We were treated to a seemingly rare airing of "Planet Telex," and a swooning, piano-heavy take on "Karma Police" that foregrounded Jonny Greenwood's piano work. (The fans were so elated for that one that they continued singing the refrain after the song had ended, and Yorke responded hilariously by gesturing at them as if he was conducting a symphony.) Meanwhile, "Myxomatosis," a regular in setlists on this tour, recalled 1990s Nine Inch Nails; and "I Might Be Wrong" -- prefaced onstage by the thrilling sound of Greenwood tuning his distorted guitar down to a drop-D -- felt like the perfect middle ground between Radiohead's rock past and its beat present: Nearly everyone around me was moving to the rhythm, but many were also making that scrunched-up face people make when electric guitars are producing loud, snarling, rawk sounds.

  • Christopher Victorio

So yes, this was a pretty great concert even as far as Radiohead shows go: A goods-delivering setlist (see below), an attentive audience, and a jolly-seeming Yorke, who was either totally clueless about his whereabouts, or just thought that asking "Where am I?" in a patronizing tone over and over again might encourage the San Jose fans to move somewhere more memorable. In between rhetorical put-downs, though, Yorke was downright chatty, calling out a few song names, rambling on in nearly unintelligible British about the half-forgotten origin behind "The Amazing Sounds of Orgy," and joking that new song "Identikit" was "freely available on YouTube, as are many things." What a dryly profound wit this art-jester had!

  • Christopher Victorio

And speaking of profundity, let's just mention one more time what a revelation Radiohead's music is onstage: Even when it is more or less faithful to its recordings -- which isn't often -- the band's songs take on new dimensions live: Set opener "Bloom" brought a jazzy familiarity that's missing from the difficult original, and "Reckoner" felt like a downtrodden belt-it-out soul tune, hitting far closer to the heart than expected. Much of last night's show felt and functioned like a dance party, too, with the murky polyrhythms of Phillip Selway and tour drummer Clive Deamer inspiring almost as much movement among the audience as Yorke showed onstage.

In this vein, the ever-awesome "Idioteque" closed the show by blossoming from a claustrophobic electro-bleat into a full-on drum 'n' bass rave, losing zero emotional intensity but gaining an anxious energy that just made you want to fling your body around, in glee and grief, like a crazy person. Thankfully there was already one onstage, showing the way.

  • Christopher Victorio

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I definitely love Radiohead, but I'm not a hardcore fan. Or at least I thought I wasn't until last night.

One complaint: Radiohead sucks at ending songs, at least live. Last night, many just stopped with no apparent reason or hint. Just blammo. Over. Done. Maybe they should take a lesson from Bob Mould.

Setlist and more photos after the jump.

  • Christopher Victorio


1. Bloom

2. 15 Step

3. Morning Mr. Magpie

4. Kid A

5. Staircase

6. The Gloaming

7. The National Anthem

8. The Amazing Sounds of Orgy

9. Climbing up the Walls

10. Karma Police

11. Identikit

12. Lotus Flower

13. There There

14. Feral

15. Little By Little

16. Reckoner


17. Separator

18. I Might Be Wrong

19. Myxomatosis

20. Everything in its Right Place


21. The Daily Mail

22. Planet Telex

23. Idioteque

  • Christopher Victorio

  • Christopher Victorio

  • Christopher Victorio

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