BY HOLLY AGUIRRE
It was standing room only at a packed Philips Arena, Thursday night as Radiohead, reigning kings of the ’90s British invasion, hit the stage running, performing for just over two hours to the delight of some of the most well-behaved concertgoers we’ve ever seen.
A well-groomed Thom Yorke greeted audience members at around 8:45 p.m. with a spring in his step and a smile on his face.
“Welcome to our world everyone. It’s a bit confusing at times,” he laughed. “Sorry about the wait.”
Radiohead early adopters may remember the days when Yorke was so in his cups that he could hardly hold his head up much less grasp a guitar.
The pixie-like frontman could be so painfully shy, one wondered what he was thinking, being a performer in the first place; he’d rarely engage his audience though he inexplicably managed to charm us, belting out hit after hit, night after night. Brothers Jonny and Colin Greenwood (lead guitar and bass, respectively), jangled along and stumbled about the stage, sometimes colliding with their gear. Ed O’Brien on rhythm guitar and Phil Selway on drums took the role of the band’s anchoring workhorses.
In spite of the lack of professionalism, there was a unique appeal to the whole thing and audiences loved Radiohead for it.
Fast-forward 21 years and what you have now is a live stage show rivaled perhaps only by some sort of Las Vegas extravaganza and a reborn Yorke, whose performance Thursday was as electric as the wall of sparkling LED lights behind him.
The set itself is on par with a high-tech art installation a la the Hirshhorn or the Museum of Modern Art. The lights flash hot pink for one song, changing to blue for another and then fading into a warm orange for the next. Twelve individual flat panel screens hovered over the stage, pivoting and turning revealing different images of the band in real time. On one screen we’d see a close-up of Jonny’s face, his left eye covered by his trademark hair flop; on another, Selway peeking out from behind his kit.
The music itself didn’t disappoint either. The band opened with “Bloom,” a track from “The King of Limbs,” the group’s latest and eighth record. Yorke paced himself nicely throughout the night, at times dancing into a frenetic frenzy while at others he looked much like the leader of a Conga line aboard a Carnival Cruise ship, especially during “The Gloaming,” a crowd favorite.
When Yorke sat at the piano and played “Pyramid Song,” the energetic crowd quieted down and – gasp! – listened to every note. There was even an abnormal lack of social networking throughout the entire show, not a whole lotta tweeting going on. Even the body surfing in the pit was polite.
It’s so nice to see Yorke and Company all grown up, realizing they’re fortunate to be getting paid to do what they do. Their gratitude and humility is self-evident in their performances as well as their respect for the audience. They loved the world and it loved them back, at least last night in Atlanta it did.
RADIOHEAD SET LIST