CHELSEA HEANEY tries to put the religious experience that was RADIOHEAD‘s long-awaited Brisbane concert into words.
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Friday November 9
It was rainy and cold as thousands made the journey to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre last Friday for the sold out Radiohead concert. I have described this venture as the musical equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca, and considering this kind of event happens on this continent once every eight years or so, the excitement in the crowd was also spiritually tangible.
Radiohead opened their two-hour set with Lotus Flower and Bloom — two tracks from their latest LP The King of Limbs. The group is touring with Clive Deamer, the drummer for Portishead who is playing alongside Radiohead’s own Phil Selway. The two drummers emphasised the layered percussion differentiating TKoL from their more melodic albums.
Following the echoing and evocative instability of Bloom, the group seamlessly jumped back a decade to OK Computer with Airbag. The set line-up also included fan favorites like Reckoner and You & Whose Army as well as the new non-album releases Staircase and The Daily Mail. They did, however, steer clear of 1993’s Pablo Honey and only included Street Spirit (Fade Out) from The Bends.
Radiohead definitely know how to cater to their fans, which they proved by playing a number of old hits as well as plenty of recent material. OK Computer’s eerie masterpiece Climbing Up The Walls was played before the melancholy and toned-down Nude from In Rainbows. But the emphasis was definitely on their last three albums and latest releases, Thom Yorke telling the crowd “we do new songs so we don’t go mad.”
Yorke’s erratic dance moves peaked with Myxomatosis as he jumped about the stage flailing his limbs every which way while Johnny Greenwood kept his head down and played his way through a menagerie of different instruments. Greenwood also used a handheld radio throughout the set, tuning it to different local stations and using it to build to or out of songs.
There There, The National Anthem, Feral and Bodysnatchers rounded up the set in a high-energy explosion of progressive rock. However the crowd knew that it wasn’t over — not only due to the fervent applause, but also because the crew were already setting up for the encore.
A lone Yorke re-entered the stage to deliver a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Give Up The Ghost. The singer looped and layered his vocal harmonies during the track, building to an ethereal and ghostly end that left the arena in awe. Yorke was then joined by the rest of the band for Pyramid Song, Morning Mr Magpie and Paranoid Android — all of which received hails of recognition. Keen to get a lasting fix of Radiohead before they head back to England for another eight years, the crowd still called for more.
After three minutes of thunderous applause, the band appeared yet again for a second encore, immediately breaking into 15 Step and evoking euphoric yells from the audience. When Yorke began singing a Bjork sample from Unravel, it made for a perfect and unexpected lead into Everything In It’s Right Place. The band closed the set (for the last time) with one of my personal favourites Idioteque. A slight glitch in the track tempo led to Yorke counting the band back halfway through the song, but the transition was a matter of seconds and didn’t undermine the performance in any way.
As the quintet (sextet with Deamer) made their third and final departure, a girl two rows down from me started bowing in exultation — a feeling that was undeniably reciprocated by the crowd. I left the venue in a blissful daze that I could only liken to some form of religious encounter. Radiohead have set the bar impossibly high with this live performance and only further cemented themselves in my mind as one of the best musical groups of both 20th and 21st century.