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Radiohead electrifies a packed Philips Arena

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

  •  Bloom
  • Little By Little
  • Airbag
  • Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
  • Morning Mr. Magpie
  • The Gloaming
  • Kid A
  • Pyramid Song
  • Nude
  • Identikit
  • Lotus Flower
  • There There
  • Feral
  • Idioteque
  • The Daily Mail
  • Bodysnatchers

Encore:

  • Separator
  • You and Whose Army?
  • Myxomatosis
  • Everything in Its Right Place (w/The One I Love intro)

 Encore 2:

  • Staircase
  • Reckoner
  • Street Spirit (Fade Out)

15 comments Add your comment

stan mullins

March 2nd, 2012
8:37 am

Great writing! love the way you flowed and wove history with the here and now…playlist is a nice touch too!
-s

Eric Goldstein

March 2nd, 2012
10:27 am

really well done. it sums up last night perfectly.

blackbird13

March 2nd, 2012
1:06 pm

I’ve been a fan of Radiohead for nearly 20 years, but had never seen them live until last night (mainly because they have always played outdoors here, and I hate outdoor concerts). Have to say I was disappointed. Yeah, I knew going in that the set list was going to be heavy on the new stuff, but I’m still surprised that they would only play one song from what is widely regarded as their magnum opus, OK Computer. No Paranoid Android. No Karma Police. Don’t get me wrong: I like the new stuff. In Rainbows and King of Limbs are excellent albums, especially the former. But by my count there were more songs from the relatively minor Hail to the Thief than from The Bends and OK Computer combined.
Set list complaints aside, I thought the show lacked momentum. There were few peaks outside of the blistering rendition of Idioteque and the musical nod to REM (Yorke, close friends with Michael Stipe, sang the chorus from “This One Goes Out to the One I Love” before launching into “Everything In Its RIght Place”). I hate to say this about one of my favorite bands, but for me the show could be summed up by the title of my favorite Radiohead song: “Let Down.” Which, of course, they didn’t play.

Jeff

March 2nd, 2012
1:39 pm

I gotta disagree with blackbird123. The show was electrifying, amazing, great. Radiohead has played “Karma Police” on other shows in this tour, but not this time. They also did not play “The National Anthem” or “Optimistic”, but they did play 23 (count ‘em) other songs, in a over two hour show. They are touring in support of The King of Limbs, so what did you expect?

I expected greatness, and I was not let down. Not one bit. I’m really glad they are mixing up their set list with every show, it makes it less boring and more fun for the band, and when they are having a good time, so will you.

Blackbird, you should go see them again on their next tour. I saw them play Lakewood a couple years ago, which was fantastic; this show was better. Go again.

alex

March 2nd, 2012
3:42 pm

I was initially a little bit disappointed too only because I had unrealistic expectations for the setlist, but I settled down and thought about what we *did* hear – Kid A, You and Whose Army, Myxamatosis – all stuff that I was thrilled to hear because I wasn’t fully expecting them. And the songs that I was fully expecting to hear – There There, Idioteque, Pyramid Song, Everything in Its Right Place, Street Spirit, Reckoner – were just as glorious as I had imagined them to be. Wish there was more love for The Bends and OK Computer, but can’t complain too much.

Jeff

March 2nd, 2012
4:07 pm

A modern, relevant, huge rock band… playing tunes from their most recent albums. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Radiohead isn’t into “greatest hits” mode, not yet anyway, and let’s be glad that’s not the case. Hopefully we have another 20 years of Radiohead being relevant before they drop into Yes / Rush / Stones / U2 / Styx mode. There aren’t many like Radiohead left anymore.

ted

March 2nd, 2012
4:13 pm

I thought it was a fabulous show. Still comes in a close second to seeing them in 2001 at Stone Mtn, which was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life. The visuals last night were really just an update of what they’ve been doing for over 10 years.

Jeremy

March 2nd, 2012
7:24 pm

Thom’s dancing is even better in person than you could ever imagine. Especially from only a few feet away. I must say I love all Radiohead and before the show decided that no matter what they played that I would walk away both satisfied and disappointed. There was no way they could satisfy me with a set of only 20+ songs, but every song they’d play promised to be wonderful. So it was a pleasant surprise when they played Reckoner right at the very end and I realized that I was going to leave completely satisfied without a hint of disappointment. Easily the best concert I’ve ever been to so far.

Austin

March 3rd, 2012
12:12 am

Honestly, for Radiohead to play everyone’s favorite song it’d require a discography play through. Easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to and one of the chillest crowds I’ve ever been packed in with.

Martin

March 3rd, 2012
2:33 pm

The overwhelming feeling for me in Atlanta was that the boys took their jobs seriously but not themselves too seriously. My sister and I met for a no kids, no spouses bucket list trip. We were thrilled and delighted with the concert. We sat in Phillips arena a good bit after the last song faded, not willing to end the experience.

Jeaninrainbows

March 3rd, 2012
6:07 pm

still in shock after the show. still trying to absorbe everything. 2 hours just wasn’t enough for me. the band worked hard and probably sweat off 10 pounds each. wasn’t real close, but on the first level at the rail and i didn’t miss a thing. would have been happier of course on the floor rail! it was everything mr. obrien said it would be from an earlier interview. the house was packed and well behaved. we were all there to see the greatest band (imo)ever! i thank everyone who helped this old girl make a memory i won’t forget, even when i get dementia. LOL

stephanie

March 4th, 2012
10:39 am

Phenomenal show. Flew down to ATL from Columbus, OH and was not disappointed one bit. The ONLY thing that would make me happier is if I had the money to follow them around the States to see them play in every damn city. Radiohead: the most amazing, talented, beautiful, group of people to ever play music together (in my opinion).

evan

March 5th, 2012
12:46 am

I was at the front rail, as close as I could have possibly been. I had waited since 8:30 in the morning, was first in line at the door, and I was more excited than I have ever been. It was my first time seeing Radiohead and it was by far the best concert I’ve ever seen. Up as close as I was I could sense and see the band’s excitement and joy they had playing this show. They played all amazing songs. I wouldn’t have exchanged any of the ones they played with ones that I wish they had played, although I do wish they had played more but that seems unrealistic. The new song Identikit is awesome with Ed singing backup vocals simultaneously with Thom. I couldn’t have wanted anything better.

Dendog

March 6th, 2012
11:20 am

I’m with Blackbird. I did enjoy the show, but I’m not as interested in their “dancy-dance” material, and couldn’t help feeling disappointed. I was at the Stone Mountain show, and still hold that as one of the best concert experiences of my life. But this show left me feeling pretty bummed. Especially for the ticket price, and seeing the setlist from Miami. I think they could easily mix up the set and give fans in every city a little bit of everything, while still not playing the same thing every night. It doesn’t make them a “greatest hits” band, but if they are going to play big venues and charge U2 prices, then they owe it to their fans to at least pay homage to their biggest successes. I think the crowd was so “well behaved” and “chill,” because, like me, they were bored for about half the show. I kept waiting for the payoff that never came, and then the lights came on…

Dman

March 6th, 2012
11:12 pm

Setlist complaints (i have none) aside, there was one thing lacking in the show… Volume. Now granted, we were in the upper section, but third row up, so it was like a front row balcony seat, and we just felt like we were watching it on TV. We couldn’t get “sucked in.” Having been to both the Hail to The Thief and In Rainbows shows, this one lacked that sonic punch that one expects from a Radiohead show. We were so excited thinking that this indoor show (at last) would put us in a surround sound nirvana with all the amazing rhythms and sounds swirling around our heads. But in reality the Atlanta Hawks Basketball games thump that place louder than Thom and company did. C’mon, boys, put some speakers around the rim of the place, shoot sound and lights all around the place…submerge us in your haunting and detailed sound – You’re Radiohead, for crying out loud. I found myself saying, “Oh, this song is amazing. I can’t wait to crank it on my stereo in the drive home.”

Amazing band. Amazing performers. Wasted opportunity, in my opinion.