Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio
April 14, 2012
Radiohead might have a problem. They are so consistently great that an elite performance, such as the one turned in Saturday night at Coachella, could be seen as missing that element of surprise that comes with headlining the festival. No beach ball deluge, no guest stars. Just a Radiohead show. Just the highest-grade psychedelic rock performance achievable present-day. But is that enough?
Coming into the show, audiences knew a few things: the set would draw heavily from King of Limbs; the band would feature live member in electro-percussionist Clive Deamer; and, as always, the performance would be spot-on and huge-sounding, with intense visuals. And that's exactly what it was–two hours and 21 songs worth of near-flawless execution.
The band wasted no time featuring its newest stage member, opening the
show with “Bloom,” a song built upon a tapestry polyrhythms woven by
Deamer and drummer Phil Selway. With Deamer, Radiohead sounded fuller,
busier and have a subtle tribal lilt that sneaks into even their older
material. Last night's most obvious example of this was during Kid A staples “Idioteque” and “Everything in Its Right Place,” both of which grooved harder than ever; and “15 Step” from In: Rainbows sounded denser and more visceral than on the recording.
Visually, the focal point was an overhead array of two dozen
jumbo rectangular LED screens that shifted arrangement throughout the
set. During “Weird Fishes,” it projected wavy patterns of shimmering
aquamarine for an underwater effect; for “Staircase,” the monitors were
arranged diagonally, flashing in sequence to imply ascent and a sense of
But the show wasn't all frenetic energy: one
early set highlight saw the band rein it in for haunting version of
“Pyramid Song,” showcasing Radiohead's trademark quiet intensity.
Another quiet song, “Daily Mail,” came next. Fans who took the
opportunity to make a beer run were seen moments later hustling back
towards the stage as the band exploded into the opening notes of the
Only a handful tunes from Radiohead's first three albums made it into the setlist: “Lucky” from OK Computer was a gem, the first of six songs in the encore. Also from OK Computer,
“Paranoid Android” rained down to close the show. Earlier in the set,
the festival audience sang along to “Karma Police” to which Thom Yorke
quipped, was “just like an '80s rock film.” And then, “The '80s were
shite in case you missed it, which you probably did,” acknowledging that
the Pablo Honey record outdated good chunk of the audience.
Surprises were never Thom Yorke's thing. They make him nervous.
And standard classic rock cliches, like inviting the audience to sing
along, or floating a giant inflatable pig over the stage, aren't really
his style either. Nothing will ever be disappointing about a Radiohead
concert. But then again, when you're the Saturday headliner at
Coachella, it's best to have at least one extra trick up your sleeve.
Critic's Bias: Radiohead have a permanent spot in my all time top ten.
Overheard in the Crowd: Give me some more OK Computer!
Random Notebook Dump: At “Give Up the Ghost”: Too cold for acoustic ballads, c'mon Thom.
Morning Mr. Magpie
The Daily Mail
After The Gold Rush (a capella)
Everything in Its Right Place
Give Up the Ghost