“How come it smells of doughnuts?” Thom Yorke asked the almost-sold-out audience while preparing for the next song. “Who could eat doughnuts at a time like this?”
While shocking that such minute of a sensory cue could throw off guard such unconventional and peculiar of a highly-honed and concentrated frontman, everyone understood the oddity that evoked one of only a rare few of Yorke’s attempts at small talk with the audience. Everyone in attendance, including the band itself, knew that the particular evening was too much of a sacrament…for the presence of doughnuts.
And it was that symbiosis between Radiohead and its audience last night that caught me off guard.
I had high expectations — I’ve watched the documentaries, heard the live recordings, read the biographies, studied the music — so much in fact, that I was made weary that the band and its art was already too much a part of my awareness for the concert to phase me.
But the equal, mutual elation and anticipation shared between both the concert-goers and the five musicians onstage is what made the Radiohead concert a rare experience. Thank goodness, the band put on an excellent show not because of who they are (arguably the most high revered active rock band in the world), but because of how they played (excellent) and why they played that way (for their own enjoyment).
They opened their set unexpectedly with the slow-moving “All I Need,” beginning the night off with a sense of ease, simplicity, and contentment through the piece’s straight-forward drum beat and melody. While the songs quickly grew in intensity, the band made sure their set relied not on dissonance, noise, and speed, but more on atmosphere, space, and dynamics. How mature of them.
Of course, there was some self-indulgence for the band, rocking out the obtrusive bass lines of “Myxomatosis” and “Bangers & Mash,” but again, when the band had fun, so did the audience, and Thom Yorke’s frenzied flailing to the asymmetrical beats and uncontrolled guitar solos was in great contrast to many of In Rainbows’ smooth-swaying mood songs.
Ending the two-hour performance was an excellent and varied encore. The celestial “Pyramid Song” strived for an aura of divinity through Yorke’s angular piano comping and antiquated melody lines. “House of Cards” revisited In Rainbows, emphasizing the band’s newfound devices of refreshment and purity. And “Paranoid Android,” of course, finished the set as an homage to the album that made them who they are.
Below is the 25-song setlist that Radiohead proudly presented St. Louis last night, each song being slightly askew and with a little more character than their set-in-stone recorded equivalents. Remember, however, that the concert was much more than this list, ornamented with laser-lighted chimes suspended from the scaffolding, techicolor video effects with Yorke shoving his eye up close into the camera, blinking at the audience, and of course, the excitement of the band, just as eager for the next song as the audience in front of them.
All I Need
Jigsaw Falling into Place
Airbag
15 Step
Nude
Kid A
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The Gloaming
You and Whose Army?
Idioteque
Faust Arp
Videotape
Everything in its Right Place
Reckoner
Optimistic
Bangers & Mash
Bodysnatchers
Encore 1
Exit Music (for a film)
Myxomatosis
My Iron Lung
There There
Fake Plastic Trees
Encore 2
Pyramid Song
House of Cards
Paranoid Android

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