Countless think pieces have reached the same conclusion: Radiohead has crafted some of the past several decades’ most memorable music moments. Those very think pieces have tread and retread that familiar territory: Praise for Radiohead is nearly universal. With that being said, Radiohead performed at the Greek Theatre on Monday evening.
Days after technical difficulties forced it to leave twice in the middle of its headlining set at Coachella, Radiohead demonstrated that it has not skipped a beat. Thousands of fans from all walks of life waited in the rain to see the critically acclaimed British alternative rock band perform. Mustachioed hipsters and goth teens alike all hid under fluorescent ponchos and windbreakers as the Thom Yorke-led band played a 25-song, two-encore, marathon concert. The show demonstrated Radiohead’s consistent ability to unite multiple crowds all under the same music: the experimental with the accessible, the deep cuts with the hit singles.
When the deafening cheering died down, a confused crowd saw that a microphone was facing them rather than Yorke. Yorke motioned toward the crowd, causing it to roar once again. Once the applause subsided a second time, Yorke turned the microphone back to himself and began the haunting “Daydreaming.” Samples of the crowd that were recorded only moments ago echoed throughout the song. Track after track, the band highlighted not only its desire to use live loops, but also its mastery of the technique. Loops of Yorke, instrumentals and the crowd were expertly layered one atop the other as Radiohead proceeded to dissect, deconstruct and rework each one of the songs that it played. The quintet showed no hesitation in scrapping the recorded versions of its tracks in favor of vast improvisations that turned the originals on their heads. These free-flow creations channeled My Bloody Valentine rather than Radiohead’s grunge roots in the nineties. Johnny Greenwood, in particular, spent a large amount of his time attempting to make his guitar sound like bird chirps, screeches or anything besides a guitar. The combination of the effects and, not to mention, the already-majestic music, created a singular, glorious experience that combined the flair of Radiohead’s recorded material with the ephemerality of a live show.
The volume of the night was a series of highs and lows. During the powerful “Exit Music (For A Film),” not a soul uttered a word. Side conversations died instantaneously. Whispers ceased. All that was left was Yorke’s poignant, angelic vocals and that unforgettable guitar riff. Nobody else can stun and silence a crowd like that. “Fake Plastic Trees” began similarly but soon transitioned into a full-on anthem singalong once the last chorus rolled around. The moments of softness and loudness reflected the uniqueness of Radiohead — its ability to be visceral and tender all within the same song.
“We call upon the people / People have this power / The numbers don’t decide / Your system is a lie,” sang Yorke on “The Numbers.” Though there was no mention of the current administration, Yorke still added some subtle and some not-so-subtle jabs at the current sociopolitical climate. From “Burn the Witch” to telling those of the alt-right to “fuck off,” Yorke made it abundantly clear where he stood. Even opener Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis, a Jewish-Arabic band based in Israel, seemed like a political stance. Whereas similar statements would have divided crowds in other shows, Yorke’s middle finger to the alt-right caused an uproarious adulation. Perhaps it was Berkeley, perhaps it was our liberal bubble or perhaps it was Radiohead.
Detractors may suggest that Radiohead’s music is too sad or too depressing. This was contrary to the unendingly bright, positive and unifying show that occurred Monday evening. People of all creeds and colors jammed to “My Iron Lung,” danced to “Idioteque” and were mesmerized by “Reckoner.” Now, if only everyone had the whimsical and ornate dance moves that Yorke does.
Contact Derek Fang at email@example.com.