Moments after the house lights dimmed last night at the American Airlines Arena, the members of Radiohead walked onstage under the cover of darkness. A curtain concealing a screen that would project their images opened as they crept into their first song, "Daydreaming," off their latest album, 2016's A Moon Shaped Pool.
Lights slowly brightened to illuminate the band as Thom Yorke's alien falsetto danced over the dreamy ballad's solemn piano dirge. Rays of light punctured the air as Yorke sang, "We're just happy to serve you."
Radiohead doesn't need to make a grand entrance. Nearly a quarter-century after the release of its debut album and exactly 20 years out from its international breakthrough with OK Computer, this is a band with nothing left to prove and no one to impress. Any one of its most lauded albums — OK Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows — could have earned the group a spot on modern music's Mount Rushmore, and Radiohead is widely regarded as one of the best live bands in the world.
The bandmates could easily hit the stage, phone it in, and coast on the security of their past successes. Instead, they launched their latest tour with a career-spanning set that leaned heavily on A Moon Shaped Pool, their modern classic In Rainbows, and OK Computer.
After playing a handful of cuts from A Moon Shaped Pool, Yorke introduced the band before launching into "Airbag," the first track of five they'd play in homage to the 20th anniversary of OK Computer.
Songs from OK Computer and In Rainbows elicited the most enthusiastic crowd responses, as did "Lotus Flower," from 2011's The King of Limbs. Yorke reprised the spastic, arm-flailing dancing he made famous in the black-and-white video for the song.
After more than two decades onstage, Yorke is still awkward. The difference now is he's embraced it. He shimmied like Tina Turner during "Identikit." He laughed into the echo effect on his mike between songs and screamed into the sound hole of his guitar at the end of "Climbing Up the Walls."
And he can lead a hell of a sing-along, as he did during "All I Need" and "No Surprises." Radiohead can be the heaviest band in the world one minute, and pack a stadium with a lullaby the next. Often they pull off both feats in a single song.
Closing their first set with Kid A's "How to Disappear Completely," they didn't stay out of sight for long before returning for the first of two encores. The audience overpowered Yorke's soulful voice during "Fake Plastic Trees" as the lights shone on the whole crowd. The bandmates knew they'd be sharing the spotlight with thousands of other voices during that song. Earlier in the night, during "Idioteque," Yorke flubbed the lyrics momentarily, but he had a sea of singers backing him up.
Barely anyone budged after the first encore. Traffic, Uber surge pricing, and parking-garage mazes are no match for the fervor of Radiohead's famously rabid fans. Even after the band emerged for a final two-song encore, most people stayed put until the house lights came on.
It's the least they could do to repay a band whose career has outlasted fickle musical trends, adapted to changing habits in music consumption, and foregone all the bullshit that comes with the level of success Radiohead has attained.
Last night, Jonny Greenwood crouched over his guitar in the same haircut and white T-shirt he's rocked for two-plus decades. That's the kind of simplicity a rock star can achieve only when he puts his art, music, and listeners above fanfare and ego.
- "Desert Island Disk"
- "Ful Stop"
- "Morning Bell"
- "Climbing Up the Walls"
- "All I Need"
- "Let Down"
- "I Might Be Wrong"
- "Lotus Flower"
- "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"
- "The Numbers"
- "How to Disappear Completely"
- "No Surprises"
- "Burn the Witch"
- "Fake Plastic Trees"
- "The Tourist"
- "You and Whose Army"
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