Thom Yorke’s solo albums are often moody and static, less physical than the music he makes with Radiohead. Yet on the opening night of Yorke’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” at Philadelphia’s Franklin Music Hall on Friday, apparently the singer want his audiences to dance — something that’s not readily apparent on the icy 2014 album from which this tour takes its name. And this packed-to-the-rafters Philadelphia crowd did, although perhaps not in the way Yorke & Co. desired.
During his 19-song “live mix” with producer-turned-bandmate Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri — which combined tracks from his solo projects with several new songs — Yorke even busted out some dance moves. There were odd, modified versions of the Cabbage Patch, a sort of rhythmic spider’s crawl, bits of the Dougie and more.
Entering after an appropriately eerie opening set from cellist Oliver Coates, the all-in-black threesome hit the ground running with the moodily majestic first track, “Interference,” Yorke’s voice high and strong. The dancing started early when the trio performed “A Brain in a Bottle” and “Impossible Knots,” Yorke looping his wordless vocal into the latter’s bassline. “Two Feet Off the Ground” contained a thick, reverberating bass, while “Amok” and “Default” – two Atoms for Peace tunes from Yorke’s 2009 project with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea – contrasted a lullaby’s melodies with clattering, trap rhythms. The same could be said of Barri’s live video-mix of psychedelic blobs, spiders’ webs and lava-spewing sluices.
From that point on, the music became less rhythmic and more esoteric, with looping keyboards and flanging guitars driving songs such as “Pink Section,” and “Nose Grows Some.” The set wound down with the elegiac “Traffic” and “Twist,” bringing the crowd, which had just begun to break a sweat, down into chill mode. Through it all, Yorke managed to propel his often-cool brand of electronic music into something alive, vibrant and warm.
Yet strangely, just one song from Yorke’s latest solo release — his soundtrack to the film “Suspiria” — was aired, “Unmade,” and not until the very end of the show, which is a shame because many of that album’s intimate, atmospheric moments would have worked elegantly within the softer moments of tonight’s electro-suite.