“Who’s Eating Donuts at a Time Like This?” Radiohead Live in St. Louis
By
Zoe Martin
5/18/2008 9:35:45 PM

Calling last Wednesday’s sold-out Radiohead concert 'highly-anticipated' would be an understatement. With the intriguing, pay-what-you-want digital distribution of In Rainbows [physically released by independent record label XL Recordings] in October, a tour seemed imminent. But with this particular band – headed by Thom Yorke’s [lead vocals, guitar, piano] particular breed of global music icon – there were no guarantees.

Tour information surfaced gradually, and tickets for the show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater went on sale in mid-February (a Valentine’s Day gift, with love from Radiohead). Then, the three-month wait, all leading to the perfection of the first note in the band’s opening song, “All I Need.”

The packed lawn provided a physical indication of Radiohead’s jump in popularity since the 2003 Hail to the Thief [Capitol] release and tour, which only half-filled the same venue. And, if license plates in the parking lot were any indication, fans went to great lengths to attend.

The band Liars opened, a thankless role in the still-daylight of this huge outdoor venue with such a huge main act, but their atmospheric crooning over primitive percussive beats was a great complement to the show—sort of tribal and futuristic at the same time. Closing with their absolutely brilliant and beautiful, “On the Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,” most of the audience was either still filing in, standing in beer lines, or just plain too clueless to pay attention.

And then, the sun went down and the lights came up on stage for Radiohead’s two-hour, two-encore set (which, if you believe the rumors from our trusted source who works security, got the band in trouble for playing too long and now they’re not allowed back).

From mid-lawn, the Radiohead’s five members appeared two inches tall, but Yorke’s gorgeous voice and the robust beats of songs like “15 Step” poured pitch-perfect over the crowd. Four songs into the set, Yorke finally greeted the crowd with a question. After commenting on the sweet aroma on stage, he chastened the crowd in the pit, asking “Who’s eating donuts at a time like this?” Clearly, it was not the time for baked goods, as Yorke’s notoriously flawless falsetto lingered at the end of “Nude.”

At Radiohead’s request, the large video monitors were left off throughout the show, but the band’s backdrop featured live video of the musicians and their instruments, artistically distorted for a live/animated look (à la those Charles Schwab commercials). Yorke’s playful interactions with the camera projecting him onto this screen garnered the crowd’s appreciation during “You & Whose Army?”

One of the night’s highlights was “Exit Music (for a Film),” the first song of the encore which Yorke afterward dedicated to the lighter-filled lawn. Throughout the show, the band played each of the ten songs from In Rainbows, but chose to end with a favorite from OK Computer. “Hopefully you know this one. See ya,” Yorke said, before the band launched into “Paranoid Android,” which blew up into the most visually beautiful and intense light show to ever grace that stage.

During the regular set, Yorke introduced “Optimistic” as “a song on Kid A that we lost sight of; now it seems very pertinent to us.” Although he didn’t specify why, the chorus lyrics “You can try the best you can, the best you can is good enough,” reflect the new level of success Radiohead has achieved with In Rainbows, as a band with the power to release critically and popularly acclaimed albums on its own terms. For Radiohead – and Radiohead fans – the glass is half full.


Photo of Thom Yorke by B. Houghton

 

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