Was it any coincidence that the night Radiohead played St. Louis, the planet Mars sat directly overhead, brighter than it’s been in the last sixty thousand years? We didn’t think so either.
Radiohead opened their St. Louis show with a crashing fee-fi-fo-fum chorus to "The Gloaming," while Thom Yorke spasmed under five arcs of metal and purple and lime green light. “Good evening, St. Louie! This is St. Louie, right?” Thom Yorke said, seeming to be truly unsure of this, given we were seemingly the billionth stop of a tour that began in New York in early June and darted back and forth across the ocean, to continue on for several more weeks.
The arrangements were differently placed and denser live, as if more practice has taken them further into these sonic experiments. A perfect example was the new song, “Go To Sleep” when the ever-cool Johnny Greenwood shook up the end with powerful electronics that aren’t on the album cut. Meanwhile, Yorke thrashed around like one of those kids who should be wearing a helmet 24-7.
Playing a good balance of their last four albums, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief as well as taking a quick dip into The Bends, the crowd fully succumbed to Radiohead’s hypnotized vibe with the bewildering, haunting song “Airbag.” Other highlights included “Bulletproof”, OKC’s “No Surprises” and “Paranoid Android,” (which got the people on the lawn with their hands up, flicking their Bics in outright worship of the band), Amnesiac’s “Knives Out,” and the primitive percussion of “There, There,” which got the house and lawn dancing in unison. The biggest surprise of all, however, was when Thom sat down to the piano front and center and sang a few verses of Neil Young’s classic, “After the Gold Rush,” before merging it into Kid A’s “Everything In Its Right Place.”
The stage set--like their music-- appeared deceptively simple until it’s more thoroughly examined: Radiohead’s product—be it music or live performance-- is ever-changing, shifting, never what it seems. The backdrop behind them looked like a fence, first barbed wire, then fully electric, and occasionally turning to placid white pickets or a look of corrugated steel.
Three encores and almost two hours of music is hard to quibble with, but we still wish we could have heard “Street Spirit (Fade Out Again)” and “Karma Police.” They did go back to one song from the old days, “Just,” which stuck out like a sore thumb as the only real pop song not saturated with electronics and techno atmosphere—but it nevertheless rocked the pavilion.
“It’s a shame this show’s owned by ClearChannel,” said Yorke. “We chose to play it anyway. Not for their benefit, for yours. And then they broke into “Myxomatosis.” The band left the stage with the word “Forever” running across a lit screen behind them. And it’s no doubt that Radiohead will be with us for at least that long.
Former Pavement star, Stephen Malkmus opened the show with his new band, the Jicks, giving St. Louis a cheerful greeting bathed in blue illumination. Pavement humor seeps into the Jick’s guitar-driven pop, with spacey, atmospheric moments and speed well-suited to be the next soundtrack for a car commercial. The Jicks were well-received to this diverse crowd of hard-nosed music elitists, possibly due to the fact they’ve got a little sound for every musical personality. Malkmus closed saying, “you’ve been amazing too, considering I didn’t remember many of the chords.”