If ever there was a band that could make sense out of cacophony, it is Radiohead
. And on the first date of their British Tent tour in support of the soon-to-be-released Kid A
, they did just that.
In a soggy wet field in Newport, Wales, underneath a pyramid of beams stretching to the stars, the Oxford outfit took to the stage and for two hours debuted eleven new ones and reworked many old favorites, all of them beautifully noisy. Draped in somber blue lighting and framed by a string of soft-toned twinkling lights, the band managed to turn a venue full of thousands into what felt like a sweaty, intimate gig, embracing the audience with a thrillingly perfect sound quality of their twisted melodies.
Despite the current presence of many of Kid A
's tracks on Napster and various fan Web sites, they were still received attentively by the mixed, worldly crowd. Indeed, there were more than a few hardcore fans in the audience who seemed to have traveled a great distance -- some as far as Japan and America -- to catch the night's show.
It quickly became clear that since the band's last world tour, Radiohead have found a friend in the dance genre drum-and-bass, which formed the backdrop to new ones, including "Idioteque." The intensive song allowed frontman Thom Yorke, whose vocal turns into an aggressive rant, to cross the stage throwing a fit -- a freedom allowed by the fact that he no longer hides behind a guitar on every song. The time apart also seemed to give them a keen working knowledge of samplers and looping. During "Everything in Its Right Place," which saw Yorke leaving the center stage mike to jump on the organ keys, he looped Radiohead's sound, allowing them to leave the stage as their music brimmed hauntingly through the air.
Even the older material was given a fresh makeover. "Airbag" and "No Surprises" were tinged with echo-y chaos and experimental noises. But fans concerned Radiohead may have gone the way of electronica need not fear. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" still soared with its intensive black brilliance, while "I Might Be Wrong" allowed guitarist Jonny Greenwood his first real chance to rock out on the new material, even if it was in a more post modern, Neil Young sort of way.
By inventively intersplicing their new highly radio unfriendly tunes with familiar favorites (which were never all that radio friendly either), Radiohead allowed the audience a gentle, guided introduction to the eccentricities of their new adventures in hi-fi, totally side-stepping the type of fan alienation such bold moves often entail. As they ended it two hours and two encores into Friday night, Radiohead keenly demonstrated that despite the pitfalls stumbled upon by groups like U2
, a band can certainly grow and embrace technology and still keep their audience in their pockets.
Written by JOLIE LASH for RollingStone.com News