Radiohead Reappear Completely

For first U.S. show in two years, Radiohead rock out
Posted Oct 13, 2000 at 12:00am
Radiohead did the damn near impossible Wednesday at New York's Roseland Ballroom, their first live U.S. performance in over two years: they transformed the challenging, impenetrable Kid A into rock songs. "Songs" is a relative term when you're dealing with this band, of course, as there's not much on Kid A resembling traditional song-stuff (hooks, choruses, riffs, bridges). But for all the talk about Radiohead saving rock (from itself?), or Kid A being post-rock, or even anti-rock, Radiohead did what only Radiohead could do, and simultaneously destroyed and redeemed the genre.

Yes, it's a contradiction. But to make the transition clear between The Bends and OK Computer to Kid A, Radiohead had to find some middle ground. Which meant making Kid A songs more like OK Computer, and OK Computer songs more like Kid A, save for the dynamics. Which makes sense, in a way, because the disoriented despair that drips off both tastes pretty much the same. Radiohead songs (and their nonlinear ambient mood pieces that masquerade as songs) are on the edge of madness, fierce and fragile, intense and gentle, sweeping and subtle, all at once. It was the blurred lines between old and new, between brilliance and psychosis, that were most apparent during tonight's nearly two-hour set, which featured no less than eight selections from Kid A.

With the aid of an eight-piece brass section, Radiohead burst into the free jazz freakout of "The National Anthem," which, though monochordal as it could have been, came alive via a dizzying array of found sound on guitarist Jonny Greenwood's transistor radio and frontman Thom Yorke's growls and snarls. As the band continued to grind away, Yorke twitched and convulsed, as if he were about to seizure. Seeming to feel the songs on a completely different level, his spasms would increase as Radiohead moved into their more chaotic and dynamic numbers, from "Talk Show Host" to "Paranoid Android," but would suddenly cease when the band mellowed out with softer fare. See-sawing back and forth between subdued, sophisticated melodies and aggressive, bombastic noise, Radiohead took on multiple personalities eagerly, with Yorke introducing most numbers quietly and simply ("This is a rock song," he mumbled before "The Bends"). Though the somewhat formless "In Limbo" is one of the few songs from Kid A to feature electric guitar riffs, that didn't prevent a little re-arrangement to allow for more guitar on the non-rock songs.

Yorke's vocals practically bled out from his throat, sometimes seeming ripped out of sheer pain, other times flowing with no regard to meaning in a literal sense. Words were chosen phonetically, for the pure sound of them, as if that in a way meant more than any dictionary definition could dictate. Wailing through "Optimistic" (which is anything but), soaring through the unreleased "Dollars and Cents," Yorke at points could have carried the whole show on his voice, which, for some songs, he sang along to in a neat effect, as his distorted vocals were sampled and broken into backwards shards. Yorke lightened his plaintive wail in "How to Disappear Completely," allowing the song to drift along with his strummed acoustic guitar, letting notes just hang gently and fade away. Even in the beat-driven "Idioteque," Yorke's melody-melting vocal was gorgeous, vaulting into falsettos at the top of his register -- the beat wasn't even necessary.

Whatever Radiohead set out to prove with Kid A -- that rock is art, that rock is dead, that rock is very much alive, that rock has evolved into a new, nameless form that we may not yet recognize -- it was done and undone. As it should be.

Written by JENNIFER VINEYARD for News

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Choice Cuts: The Best of Radiohead's Acoustic Magic (4/21/2014)
Rock has never been static. When it stays in the same place for too long, sticking stubbornly to what it may think is what’s best, it becomes stale, rather than solidly in place. No band has done more in moving rock forwards over the last quar...
Hole Notes: The Diverse, Inventive Masterworks of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (11/13/2013)
These videos are bonus content related to the Holiday 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store. Radiohead frontman and primary songwrit...
New Book: Learn Radiohead's Top Tunes with Note-for-Note Transcriptions (9/3/2013)
The Radiohead Guitar Tab Anthology is available now at the Guitar World Online Store. The book, which is published by Hal Leonard, features nearly 20 top tunes from Radiohead, transcribed note for note with tab. Songs include: • Airbag • Bodysna...
Video: "Ingenue" by Atoms for Peace, Featuring Radiohead's Thom Yorke (2/28/2013)
Check out the new music video for "Ingenue" by Atoms for Peace, featuring Radiohead's Thom Yorke. It finds Yorke dancing once again, just as he did in Radiohead's heavily-.gif'ed "Lotus Flower" video. Both videos were directed and choreographed ...
Radiohead Have Recorded New Material at Jack White's Third Man Studios (7/6/2012)
Last month, during Radiohead's set at Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee, frontman Thom Yorke hinted that the band might have used their time in the state to fit in a collaboration with Jack White. "This song is for Jack White," said Yor...
Radiohead React to Toronto Stage Collapse, Postone European Shows (6/22/2012)
Radiohead have released an official statement regarding the stage collapse that took place before the group's recent show in Toronto. The incident claimed the life of drum technician Scott Johnson and injured three additional crew members. The...
Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan "P---es On" Radiohead, Praises Ritchie Blackmore (6/13/2012)
Billy Corgan, the outspoken Smashing Pumpkins frontman, decided to lay into Radiohead during a recent interview with Antiquiet. For starters, he called them "pompous" and said they're a symbol of current culture of "valuation" that he despises. ...
Radiohead Hint at Jack White Collaboration? (6/11/2012)
During Radiohead's headlining set at this past weekend's Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee, frontman Thom Yorke hinted that the band may have used their time in the state to fit in a collaboration with Jack White. "This song is for Jack...
Radiohead Set Summer Tour (5/2/2001)
"Amnesiac" to be backed with full North American tour
Radiohead Reveal New Album Details (1/5/2001)
New Radiohead album to be accompanied by singles, videos
Paul Simon, Radiohead and Green Day Lead New Releases (10/3/2000)
Reviews of Paul Simon, Radiohead, Green Day and more
Radiohead Make Logical Noise in Wales (9/6/2000)
Fusion of new and old keeps Radiohead on top at show in Wales
Radiohead Reveal New Album Info (7/6/2000)
Radiohead announce tracks for fourth album "Kid A"