Radiohead sound check: seething, soaring, squeaking — all good
Concert review: Radiohead played Wednesday at White River Amphitheatre and proved they are the best band in the world; reviewed by Andrew Matson
Seattle Times staff reporter
For two-plus hours at White River Amphitheatre Wednesday night, life on Earth made sense: The best band in the world was the most popular band in the world, and everybody present felt the appropriate sense of awe.
As each song's architecture was revealed to the sold-out crowd of 20,000 fans, unbelievably momentous things seemed to be aligning and colliding. But Radiohead never once came off delusionally self-important.
During the track "Climbing Up the Walls," petite, pasty singer Thom Yorke appeared to eat his upheld acoustic guitar. He wailed into its sound hole, while somehow the band produced noises from ambient to ominous, from digital dolphin squeaks to a massive wash of sound.
Across the stage, skinny guitarist/sound manipulator Jonny Greenwood convulsed, hair flopping in his face, judiciously turning knobs on what looked like a kitchen radio or large remote control. That's Radiohead doing "its thing."
"Its thing" Wednesday night was straightforward guitar pop (albeit straightforward guitar pop that felt like floating in space or deep-sea diving) but also taking songs to frenzied, abstract territory.
Yorke's silvery voice was in fine form, going from seething to soaring on "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." On spare songs built for his voice, he put jaws on the floor. But the glacial "All I Need" and swirling "How To Disappear Completely" would've fallen flat if not for Phil Selway's drums locking a narcoleptic groove, and Greenwood controlling a symphony with his fingertip on something like a theremin.
There was one flubbed song. Yorke and Greenwood tried to play "Faust Arp" as an acoustic guitar duo and Yorke had to stop a few times because he forgot the lyrics.
The crowd was never mad. Before starting again, he swore at himself and strummed some Neil Young, then someone from the wings rushed the words (or maybe a dollar for the impromptu busking?) to Yorke's feet and the song was completed beautifully.
The audience, mostly 20 to 40 years old, milled before the concert under a charcoal sky that rained later.
Very few words were offered to the crowd besides pleasantries, but Yorke did mention his favorite thing about Seattle was the World Trade Organization rioting back in 1999. He called the WTO malignant.
There were Tibetan flags draped on guitar amps, and Radiohead has asked fans to car pool and use public transportation if possible to attend their concerts. The band is political like Bill Gates: Their gigantic stature demands some opinions about the world.
The opener was the noisy American rock band Liars, who was thanked accordingly by Yorke after Radiohead completed a few encores.
Andrew Matson: 206-464-2153 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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