By Michel Dussack
Most arena shows feature the band playing a greatest hits set along with material from their newest album, which receives a lackluster reaction in comparison to the hits. Radiohead, however, have never been a band that conforms to what other bands do. At their second sold out show at Newarkâ€™s Prudential Center, the band focused their over two hour set on their newest album (The King of Limbs) and, surprisingly, their fourth album (Kid A) while dabbling in even newer material and deep cuts from other albums.
The last time Radiohead were in town, they played two intimate shows at Roseland Ballroom (I attended the second night) to get a handle on playing the complex material on The King of Limbs. Since then, theyâ€™ve become confident in playing the material and have even added a couple unreleased songs into their sets. On this night, fans were treated to â€˜Identikitâ€™ which is heavy on dual percussion, as is much of the newer material.
The band opened the night with the newer song â€˜Bloomâ€™ before leading into two songs from In Rainbows â€“ â€™15 Stepâ€™ and â€˜Bodysnatchersâ€™. The latter of these two truly set the crowd off for the first time, with the loud cheers erupting from the arena as soon as guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed Oâ€™Brien started playing the riff. That was nothing compared to the reaction that â€˜Kid Aâ€™ got next as I made my way from the photo pit to my seat. I admit that I missed the band perform â€˜Staircaseâ€™ as I searched for the right section, but when I finally got settled, Thom Yorke spoke about the Occupy Movement and mentioned his support for the movement, but not the violence, before kicking off the politically charged â€˜The Daily Mailâ€™.
From further back, it was immediately obvious that the stage design Radiohead brought with them on tour was very intricate. A giant screen was right behind the band with a second lighting segment above it that featured columns that were capable of lighting up multiple colors. Additionally, twelve giant, mounted TVs were arranged in various positions throughout the night, sometimes high above the band projecting images of the members, and sometimes lowered so far that it seemed they would hit someone in the head.
Early set highlights included â€˜Myxomatosisâ€™ (of Hail to the Thief), which rattled the entire arena with its bass, and newer single â€˜Lotus Flowerâ€™, which was accompanied by Thomâ€™s erratic dancing made famous by its music video. In fact, watching Thom Yorke perform lately is like watching an entirely different front man. He frequently dances about the stage with his quirky yet honest movements. While no one will mistake him for a dancer, thereâ€™s something organic about it that feels refreshing in an age where musicians are too scared to look stupid on stage.
While initially I wasnâ€™t drawn in by Radioheadâ€™s newer music, seeing it fleshed out in live performances has completely changed my mind. Phil Selway and Clive Deamer play separate drum beats that weave together to form complex, skittering beats while Johnny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, and Ed Oâ€™Brien fill in the space with guitars, bass, and keyboards to create sonically complex music that borders on impossible. In fact â€˜Idiotequeâ€™, the bandâ€™s first dabble in electronic music, seems like it finally can be performed in all of its complexity thanks to the setup of musicians on stage. However, with intricacy comes a greater risk of something being out of sync, and throughout the entire song it seemed that the band had a hard time getting all of their beats to synchronize. Eventually, a clearly frustrated Yorke literally said â€˜Fuck itâ€™ and walked off stage, leaving the band to finish the song.
When the band returned, Yorke gave a half apology, saying â€œShit like that happensâ€ and started a four-song encore. The most notable song of the encore was Hail to the Thiefâ€™s â€˜Go to Sleep,â€™ which received its first live play since 2004 and the biggest hit played of the night â€“ â€˜Paranoid Androidâ€™. The second misstep of the night came when Yorke seemingly forgot the words to the latter song, though the crowd more than carried him through it.
The band then walked off stage and returned for a second encore, which again opened with Yorke apologizing and saying that he barely got any sleep the night before, as heâ€™s been sick. An acoustic â€˜Give Up the Ghostâ€™ followed by â€˜Reckonerâ€™ started the three-song second encore, though it was the final song that should be noted the most. Firstly, a brief snippet of R.E.M.â€™s â€˜The One I Loveâ€™ was covered before leading into â€˜Everything In Its Right Placeâ€™. As Yorke sang the final few repetitions of â€œEverythingâ€ the crowd sang along with him, and in doing so, proved you donâ€™t have to play your â€œbig hitsâ€ to play an astounding show.
2. 15 Step
4. Kid A
6. The Daily Mail
8. The Gloaming
10. Pyramid Song
11. Morning Mr. Magpie
13. Lotus Flower
14. The National Anthem
17. How to Disappear Completely
19. Go to Sleep
20. Paranoid Android
21. Give Up the Ghost
23. Everything In Its Right Place