Radiohead - Earls Court, London

After a brief mini-tour which saw Thom Yorke and co play to packed, smaller venues earlier this year, Radiohead have given in to fan pressure by launching into a large arena tour. Had Wembley Stadium still been accessible they could have easily filled out every seat, but now Earls Court has to suffice, with a five-figure capacity as opposed to the near six-figure capacity of Wembley.

Radiohead superbly withered the critical backlash storm after Kid A, and tonight’s two hour concert could easily have stretched to four hours with qualitative plunderings of the fivesome’s back catalogue. After support from The Asian Dub Foundation, Radiohead grace the stage at a surprisingly early start of half-eight (which throws many of the casual beer drinkers outside in the foyers) and launch bizarrely into The Gloaming, which is an uneasy assault into the set, and one of the weaker cuts from Hail To The Thief. 2+2=5 swiftly follows, and it’s a storming and biting satirical jab at the President Elect, given Yorke the full ability to parade his trademark ‘alienist’ dance moves and head bobs. My Iron Lung kicks off the first of four selections from The Bends, and when compared to the previous two songs corroborates the notion that Radiohead’s sound has mutated drastically over the course of their six studio albums. The guitar numbers certainly please the fans, but Yorke seems to provide more gusto when engaging in the newer material.

Whilst they are certainly brave for playing ambient ramblers like the title track off Kid A, the set’s pacing is clearly compromised, and on occasions the musical direction, coupled with the large venue, allows some of the audience’s minds to drift. It’s only by the eighth set number, Amnesiac’s I Might Be Wrong that Radiohead actually feel as if they have defrosted adequately enough to enjoy themselves. OK Computer sees a late entrance with Lucky and the pulsating Paranoid Android, followed by the second single off Hail To The Thief Go To Sleep.

The visuals accompanying tonight’s performance are mesmerising, involving a rotating celluloid strip of different images taken from the stage. This shows considerable more imagination then most back projected camera relays. The band somehow manage to encapsulate their own musical personas on stage. Yorke is his own typical eccentric self – making sure the audience are unaware if he is ready to smile or spit bile. Johnny Greenwood completely loses himself in his instrumentation, whilst Ed O’Brien is restrained on the other side of Yorke with his guitar work. Phil Selway’s drumming maintains his own identity whilst keeping up with the multi-textured changes and styles of the band’s extensive output, and Colin Greenwood the token “quiet” bass player, stands by Selway’s side all night and provides the glue that joins the whole process together. Here is a band that you feel trust each other implicitly and in perfectly in-synch with one another.

The set climaxes with a good four number run in Just, Idioteque, Fake Plastic Trees and There, There, but you somehow know that the encore will provide sweeter fruits…

There are in fact two encores – the first has Yorke controversially attracting a few boos from the crowd with his anti-Blair statements, and then actually showing he has a sense of humour when his lampooning in front of the camera on You And Whose Army? causes him to break down laughing. National Anthem, Wolf At The Door and a brilliant Street Spirit (Fade Out) round out the first encore, whilst Yorke suggests to the crowd that they clap during We Suck Young Blood at the start of the second encore. Karma Police and a final finale of Everything In Its Right Place prove to be late surprises, but the biggest surprise was the lack of big songs Radiohead refused to play. You’d have expected High And Dry, Airbag, Let Down, or any of the singles off Amnesiac and many others, but sadly some of their most popular numbers were noticeable by their absence. Whilst you couldn’t complain if Creep wasn’t performed, it’s annoying to find that they performed their breakthrough hit the following night.

Still you can’t complain, as twenty-four songs were performed tonight, and even though it took half-a-dozen or so numbers for Yorke and his bandmates to warm up, it’s hard to fault Radiohead once they are in full swing, and seeing as though this is as close to a “Greatest Hits” tour as you are ever likely to see from them, there’s no reason to not feel very satisfied with tonight’s Earls Court events.

The Gloaming
My Iron Lung
Where I End And You Begin
Kid A
I Will
I Might Be Wrong
Sail To The Moon
Paranoid Android
Go To Sleep
Sit Down Stand Up
Fake Plastic Trees
There There

You And Whose Army
National Anthem
Wolf At The Door
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

We Suck Young Blood
Karma Police
Everything In Its Right Place

*Thanks to Zebedee For Picture*

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