Radiohead Review

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Photo by Jack Smith

“Hello. I’m Lady Gaga,” said Thom Yorke as his opening line at the Manchester Arena. Predictable it wasn’t, but Radiohead have never been a band that you could describe as such.

Following the success of their more conventional – by their standards, considering most songs had a chorus and a discernable riff – In Rainbows in 2008, Radiohead took a significant step back to the left with The King of Limbs, a strange, meandering, rhymthic beast inspired by the likes of Four Tet and Caribou.

While the set was King of Limbs heavy, the fact that it is such a short album allowed the band to delve into their eclectic back catalogue. 2003’s The Gloaming sounded as fresh as ever, with its pulsating bass and minimal, electronic beats almost foreshadowing what you can find in room two at clubs today.

The stage set was as electric as the music. The entire front wall of the arena was dominated by an awesome screen of colour changing light. Suspended above were moving, tilting square screens that would show nothing but close-ups of the instruments being played and QR codes in-between songs.

The album’s strangest moment, the glitchy, electro-carnival instrumental that is Feral, absolutely comes alive in this setting. The bass once again dominates in a very positive way, combined with the hypnotic light show demonstrating the clear club influence on the way this music sounds.

It’s not all bass-infused rhythmic soundscapes, however. The Daily Mail, Yorke’s inspired song about a very controversial newspaper, proved to be an incredible moment as the sell-out crowd watched the opening, piano led verses in silence. In a similar vein was the acoustic Give Up the Ghost and the beautiful Pyramid Song from 2001’s under-rated Amnesiac. In Rainbows’ lead single Nude was perfect, with Yorke’s falsetto vocal hitting every single note.

In amongst the electronic, club-inspired brilliance and the nuanced, quieter cuts, it was easy to forget that Radiohead came to prominence as a straight-up guitar rock band; at least until Yorke announced: “This is an old song. A very old song”, before the band launched into Planet Telex from 1995’s The Bends. Along with the seminal OK Computer’s opener Airbag, these proved to be rousing anthems. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, from In Rainbows, was – perhaps surprisingly – one of the singalong moments of the night.

There There and Paranoid Android, two top five singles that pack in as many musical changes as Gaga does costumes, both enthralled the audience – and both erupted into an absolute wall of sound and light. As the band left the stage after the latter, the audience were desperate for more; which they got, in the shape of three encores.

New song Full Stop sounds like a single in waiting, its opening bass riff dominating proceedings until Yorke’s droning keyboards and a mesmerising clash of primary colours on the screen take the track to another level. “The truth will mess you up” is a lyric so quintessentially Thom Yorke that it baffles the mind that he’s never sung it before.

The gig’s closer, the anthemic, scatterbrained Idioteque, sounded like it could have come out last week. It was released 12 years ago. If any audience members came for Creep, Street Spirit, Just and Karma Police, they were always going to be disappointed. But, luckily, it seems the majority came here knowing what to expect. This was the sound of a band who have released albums in the last three decades, but are still sounding as fresh and pioneering as ever.

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