Radiohead | 5.14.08

bow.jpgI labor to describe this because it was one of the most impressive displays by a band I have seen in a great while. It is also the “oh wow” effect that often is used when a band has little left to say. This is not the case with this show and this band. (Photo: Dominik Jansky)







photo: Todd Owyoung –


Radiohead | Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis, May 14, 2008

The rain held off and the air had a crisp and chilly quality. The lawn and the arena were packed solid for a rare St. Louis appearance by Radiohead. Our thoughts going in were of the songs that the band would pull from its substantial catalog, would lead singer Thom Yorke say anything about the arena’s leaseholder Live Nation, and would the shirts be affordable.

The show opened with Liars whose brief set (40 minutes) was a bit shaky. Lead singer Angus Andrew spent much time shaking his extra tall frame and fussing with his shirt tails. However, by the end of the set he had found his inner Nick Cave and we were left with a hope to see them again for a longer set. Andrew spent much of his between song time prompting cheers by telling the audience that Radiohead was up next. It is a thankless task to be the opening band for Radiohead, but you don’t need to add to your dilemma by reminding the audience of that fact. 

{gallery}radiohead:::1{/gallery} SEE SHOTS FROM THE SHOW

With clockwork precision the band came on at 8:15 and the capacity crowd, packed back on the lawn, must have been a bit let down when they saw the jumbo screens dark except for words to the effect that the band had requested they not be used for this particular show. It became readily apparent shortly into the first song that they were not necessary. Yorke sauntered on to the stage with the first notes of “All I Need” and as he moved to the microphone the backdrop erupted with heavily posterized live camera images of each of the five members of the band. Adding to the effect were strong primary colors used to wash each of the images. Across the entire stage were dozens of vertical rectangular metal poles, some stretching from ceiling almost to the floor. These turned out to be a very intricate lighting system that created some amazing effects throughout the night. I labor to describe this because it was one of the most impressive displays by a band I have seen in a great while. It is also the “oh wow” effect that often is used when a band has little left to say. This is not the case with this show and this band.

Throughout the night’s 25 songs the band proved time and again that they were there to give the audience, this particular audience, an unforgettable taste of Radiohead. Some bands, large and small, tend to swoop in, figure out what city they are in, mention the city’s name 23 times, take a bow and run back to the buses. This, also, was not the case with this show and this band. Radiohead is thomjohnny.jpgknown to change up their sets each night of a tour giving the crowd tastes of songs that they had not heard before and gentle massages of old favorites.

The show featured a nice selection of songs that moved gracefully over the band’s songbook (though avoiding Pablo Honey all together). The band adhered to many of the songs as they were presented originally on disc, which made for a few abrupt moments (especially for those fans that have entire stretches of Kid A and OK Computer burnt into their brains) however they were supplemented by some nice enhancements on “Nude” and “Weird Fishes” (both from In Rainbows).

Yorke, as a lead singer, is showy in his quirkiness. I couldn’t resist Twittering “Thom is an awesome monkey” after watching him bounce around the stage with his modified hippy dance. He is a man perfectly comfortable with his quirkiness. During “You and Whose Army” that quirkiness was on full display as he sat as his piano and sang directly into the camera mounted there. Yorke, with hair askew and eyes somewhat misdirected, rocked and smirked for an audience entranced by the image played large on the screen.

The show’s high points came from favorites like “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Everything in its Right Place,” but also from moments that were just awesome staging. The image of Yorke and Johnny Greenwood huddled together, two acoustic guitars, leaning into the microphone for “Faust Arp” was representative of the band’s ability to move a crowd’s body as well as it’s emotions. On “Fake Plastic” the crowd (some 20,000 strong) showed their love for the band by singing along to the song word for word adding to the weight of the message.

For Kid A’s “Optimistic” Yorke introduced the song with some of the few words he spoke throughout the night (other than an odd reference to the smell of donuts) by saying “this song from Kid A seems very pertinent to us.” The song with its allusions to payloads and dinosaurs is most certainly directed at a world of violent and repressive nations (two Tibetan flags adorned the stage last night), but it could also fit the band itself and the music industry in general. Radiohead struck out on its own to release In Rainbows – free if you wanted it (though many did pay for their downloads) – and they have shown that the music business, though it can be a blistering affair, can be done correctly. Radiohead, despite selling millions of CDs (and with a ticket price of $61 for seats last night) has remained attached to their core of making great music and presenting it with passion. A band 15 years on in their career might well be considered a dinosaur and simply want to package their greatest hits, but Radiohead continues to offer new horizons and a grander vision of what can be, while still offering us pleasing glimpses of what was. All the effects on stage – cameras, lights, primary colors – while an amazing package, never outshone the band.

For the record, the music selection was nearly perfect with In Rainbows songs fitting nicely into an overall pleasing selection from the catalog; the shirts made of recycled plastic bottles were nice, but pricey (I preferred the awesome aluminum water bottle); and Yorke did not mention his hosts at all. | Jim Dunn

Set 1: All I Need, Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Airbag, 15 Step, Nude, Kid A, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Gloaming, You and Whose Army?, Idioteque, Faust Arp, Videotape, Everything in Its Right Place, Reckoner, Optimistic, Bangers ++ Mash, Bodysnatchers

Encore 1: Exit Music (for a film), Myxomatosis, My Iron Lung, There There, Fake Plastic Trees

Encore 2: Pyramid Song, House of Cards, Paranoid Android


About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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