Have you seen the meme about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton giving their respective views on Radiohead? In it, Bernie is quoted as saying, “OK Computer is one of the defining albums of the ‘90s, and the decision to release Kid A immediately after will go down as one of the most important moments in rock history.” Hillary is quoted as saying, “I love ‘Creep’.” Naturally, these aren’t real quotes, but the fact that the band’s output can be used to caricature political candidates certainly says something about its status as a cultural watershed. Furthermore, the fact that they packed The Shrine with raving fans, during last night’s stop in LA, shows that there are scores of people who would side with Bernie on this issue.
Outside The Shrine, dozens of lost souls wandered around the entrances to the will call lines looking to score a ticket for a hundred or so bucks, while others merely showed up with the prayer that someone would simply give them a ticket. When asked about their plight, they spoke gravely; they seemed to know that they didn’t have a decent chance of scoring, yet, for some reason, they were compelled to come.
For the lucky (or the prepared) devils who made it inside, the show began at 8:30 with the alternative hip hop duo Shabazz Palaces, who put on a crowd-pleasing set that lasted about 45 minutes. After that, at 9:45, the ceremony began with “Burn the Witch,” the first track on their newest album, A Moon Shaped Pool. From that moment on, the stage was never the same.
Over the course of Radiohead’s 2 hour, 24 song set, the stage was essentially reset for every song. Technicians wheeled out different instruments; performance arrangements changed (with band members coming and going or switching from guitars to keyboards to drums); and the lighting schemes changed, as did the style of the presentations on the video monitors. Naturally, each alteration that was made was done so to enable and best showcase each of the tonally different tunes from the band’s catalog.
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The crowd was so worked up that is easy to imagine that they might have become violent had they been denied their Radiohead fix. Many of them thrashed violently as they danced and nodded their heads to the strains of the more rocking tunes. Others demonstrated the demon-summoning gesture once performed by Jimi Hendrix as he coaxed feedback from his flaming guitar. Then there were also those twirling hippy girls (and boys) whose sensual gyrations and hand swirling routines gained them the liberty of a small amount of space within the swooning masses.
Highlights of the show / demonstrations of the band’s eclecticism included “No Surprises,” “Identikit,” “Idioteque,” “Myxomatosis,” and “Everything in Its Right Place.” Sorry Hillary, the band did not play “Creep,” the song that first earned them airplay and critical attention. Every song that they did play, however, was its own unique, little, hypnotic trance with the one mainstay of Thom Yorke’s piercing tenor voice. While the band has varyingly taken its time over the years, often taking some time off for the respective bandmates to pursue other projects, each of their nine albums has shown that they have never stopped pouring their hearts and their imaginations into their work. To see them touring in support of this year’s A Moon Shaped Pool is to witness not only a great and dynamic band as it continues to make its way along a well-established (but never stagnant) path of creative exploration, but also the rabid fans that continue to swarm every time Radiohead turns on their porchlight.