×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Concert Review: Radiohead Mix Crowd-Pleasers With Deep Cuts at Rousing North American Tour Premiere

CHICAGO — No offense to the many massive outdoor festivals that Radiohead have headlined over the years, but there’s nothing like seeing them indoors, in a space that can project both their brightest and darkest tendencies. Friday night’s show at the United Center kicked off an 18-date North American tour that will find them packing arenas instead of sprawling fields, playing to roughly 20,000 fans every night instead of exponentially more at Coachella or Lollapalooza. It’d be a stretch to call either experience “intimate,” but one is far closer to it.

Over more than two hours and two dozen songs, the band both indulged their need to get weird and embraced their most populist tendencies — occasionally in the same moment, but mostly by building and releasing tension in roughly 30-minute cycles. Considering that they’ve been at it for more than 25 years, it’s no surprise that Radiohead have setlists down to a science.

They started off on Friday with the near-ambient “Daydreaming,” a quiet, piano-driven song accented visually by a sea of strobes, and the folky, similarly subdued “Desert Island Disk,” both from their latest, 2016’s “A Moon Shaped Pool.” (Though they didn’t play any brand-new material, as ever, a Radiohead album could drop from the sky at any moment — they’ve also perfected the art of the surprise release.) Singer Thom Yorke, top-knotted and grizzly bearded, tossed his leather jacket before starting “Ful Stop,” stalking the stage with a small keyboard cradled in his arm and turning the song — which chugs along dreamily on “Pool” — into sneering electro-punk.

After that nod to their newest material, Radiohead dove headlong into a set that spanned their entire career, touching on every one of their nine albums. An egg-shaped screen matched visuals with the mood, from chill-looking dots and lines to frantically pulsing bull’s eyes, washing the audience in reds and oranges to fit the vibe.

Playing slightly against character, Yorke seemed delighted to be onstage throughout the show, though happiest during the set’s least traditional, most percussive moments: During the frenetic “Myxomatosis,” from 2003’s “Hail to the Thief,” he danced to beats that he seemed to be adding in his mind, and punctuated the lyrics with hip-hop-like postures. “Bloom,” from “The King of Limbs,” featured three drummers working to build a skittering wall of beats for Yorke and guitarist Ed O’Brien to climb around in, all attention focused on rhythm and none on something as gauche as a traditional chorus — those have been in short supply in Radiohead’s last decade or so, and only occasionally missed.

And of course there were crowd pleasers as well: Both “Paranoid Android” and “Let Down,” from 1997’s band-defining classic “OK Computer,” elicited instant cheers of recognition. But the two songs that closed the main set earned the most applause by combining the band’s itch for experimentation and the audience’s desire to be entertained: a one-two punch of the manic “Idioteque” and the woozy “Everything in Its Right Place,” both from 2000’s “Kid A.”

The encores — Radiohead shows aren’t complete without at least a couple of them — put the show’s contrasts in dramatic relief. For the pop-minded, they offered a soaring “Fake Plastic Trees” and a keening “No Surprises.” For the diehards, they resurrected the 1993 snoozer “Blow Out.” And for themselves, it was the slinky, jazzy “Nude” and an energized reading of the syncopated electro jam “15 Step.” The evening closed with an agitated “There There,” which managed to feature four people playing drums and still sound like the most R.E.M.-inspired song of Radiohead’s catalog.

As Yorke walked offstage, he looked genuinely pleased. Like his more traditionalist rock ‘n’ roll analogue Eddie Vedder, he’s learned over the years to embrace the joy in delivering both the crowd favorites as well as the saddest, weirdest songs in the band’s catalog to a room of people eager to go wherever his band wants to take them. He’ll be 50 this year, but he looks like he’s having more fun being in Radiohead than ever before.

Concert Review: Radiohead Mix Crowd-Pleasers With Deep Cuts at Rousing North American Tour Premiere

More Music

  • Streaming Powers U.S. Latin Music Market

    Streaming Powers U.S. Latin Music Market to 18% Growth

    The U.S. Latin music business experienced its second year of double-digit growth in 2018, driven almost entirely by streaming, according to the RIAA’s year-end report. The Latin market grew 18% in 2018 to $413 million, driven by a nearly 50% growth in revenues from paid subscriptions, the report says. Streaming formats made up a whopping [...]

  • Ranking Roger of The BeatThe Beat

    Ranking Roger, of English Beat and General Public, Dies at 56

    Roger Charlery, aka Ranking Roger, the singer and toaster from the English Beat, General Public and Special Beat, died today after a battle with cancer, a rep for the band confirmed to Variety. He was 56. The group, which has existed in several different forms over the years, issued a statement on its social media [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D14-5180.raf

    The Sexist Metal Scene in 'The Dirt' Is Painfully Accurate, Say Veteran Female Execs

    UPDATED: The fallout from Friday’s premiere of Netflix’s few-holds-barred Motley Crue biopic, “The Dirt,” began even before the film, which focuses on the quartet’s ‘80s-‘90s decade of decadence, was released. The group’s ill treatment of many women in their orbit is a matter of public record, and is depicted both seriously and unsettlingly light-heartedly in [...]

  • BMG Posts Strong Earnings for 2018

    BMG Posts Strong Earnings for 2018

    BMG announced solid earnings for 2018 — its tenth year since the “new” BMG opened for business after its previous incarnation merged with Sony Music — as part of parent company Bertlesmann’s results Tuesday. According to the announcement, despite “negative exchange rate effects,” BMG’s revenues increased by 7.5 percent to €545 million (around $644 million), [...]

  • Rahm Emanuel

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Calls Jussie Smollett Deal a 'Whitewash of Justice'

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision by Cook County prosecutors to drop charges Tuesday against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. Flanked by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Kevin Graham, the president of the Chicago police union, the mayor said the decision sends a message that high-profile people will not be held accountable for their [...]

  • Grammy Awards60th Annual Grammy Awards, Press

    Grammy Eligibility Year to Close One Month Early for 2020 Awards

    The eligibility year for the 2020 Grammy Awards will close on Aug. 31, one month earlier than usual, the Recording Academy announced today in a letter to members. The change is due to next year’s telecast taking place on Jan. 26, around two weeks earlier than usual (although the 2018 awards took place on Jan. [...]

  • Post Malone wow video dancer

    Meet the 43-Year-Old Dancing Sensation From Post Malone's 'Wow' Video

    Mike Alancourt is here to dance his heart out, one Post Malone video at a time. The Florida native recently went viral thanks in no small part to his impressive moves. At 43 years old, he appears in the video for Post’s “Wow,” carrying the final third with his bearded, bellied routine. The video caught [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content