Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Radiohead @ Roseland Ballroom, 9/28

Radiohead fans are an admittedly strange group of people. We can spend hours dissecting songs for hidden meanings, spin convoluted connections between their albums (ahem, Binary Theory), and hunt down rumors and semi-confirmations and sudden confirmations of upcoming shows, songs, albums - clues which oftentimes don't solidify until days before they happen.

These honest idiosyncrasies have a very common source: every die-hard Radiohead fan has at some point developed a very honest and personal bond with the band's music at different points in their 26-year history. I've already shared the origins of my Radiohead fanaticism over here, and in meeting other fans have found that this level of passion is a common thread regardless of when or how it came about.

Needless to say, standing in a room packed with people who wore this bond on their sleeves (literally too, given the number of people sporting Radiohead tshirts) is a total fucking trip. Especially since this room - Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan's Midtown West - was where millions of fans in NYC and all over the world WANTED to be, but comparatively few made it in. Radiohead had just days before announced a two-night stay at Roseland as their first club performances in what felt like an eternity, and after crushing defeats at the hands of both the W.A.S.T.E. presale and my old nemesis Ticketbastard, I'd given up hope of getting in before - due to very odd but fortunate circumstances - a good friend of mine had one of those golden tickets available for me.

Whatever sense of struggle had been involved in finding our way in, however, transformed into a palpable sense of elation and camaraderie as we waited for Radiohead to take the stage. As opener Four Tet laid out a laid-back set of dubby electronica, a wide-eyed tiny woman turned to my friend and I and asked to hear how we'd been able to get into the show (she'd gotten her tickets as a birthday surprise along with a tandem bike). The bond that drove us there as fans gave us all a sense of gratitude for the chance to see Radiohead again and reconnect in our own unique but, within the confines of Roseland, universal way.

And when the band strode on stage and dropped the first notes of The King of Limbs opener "Bloom," we were 100% locked in. Jittery guitar runs simmered together with the double-drum cadence of Phil Selway and contributing drummer Clive Deamer before Thom Yorke's famously pained wail caused the whole tense mix to boil over, eventually receding into Colin Greenwood's molasses-thick bassline. For (presumably) everyone in the room, this was our first opportunity to hear ANYTHING from The King of Limbs performed live firsthand, and from the precision combination drum and guitar assaults led by Phil and Clive and Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien on "Little By Little" to Jonny's mindblowingly primal solo shredding on "Feral," it became crystal clear that the TKOL tracks were a welcome and amazing display of the band's evolution.

What came as a shock to everyone there, however, was how much of Radiohead's history was on display tonight. In Rainbows tracks were almost as prevalent as the newer songs, with the band slipping into powerful performances "Weird Fishes / Arpeggi," "All I Need," "Bodysnatchers," and "Reckoner" with relative ease. In what felt like an amazing nod to my love of OK Computer, Thom sat at his piano with his back to the audience before the band launched into the opening chords of the classic  "Subterranean Homesick Alien" for the first time live since 2003, causing us to promptly lose our shit. And, as my friend Masen brilliantly predicted, the band didn't get too far into their main set before Thom, still hunched over his piano after the beautifully-fragile "All I Need," softly played through the first few measures of "The One I Love" in honor of recently-split alt-rock icons R.E.M. before launching into Kid A's opener "Everything In Its Right Place."

Throughout the night, I got the impression that Thom both felt and was almost taken aback by the amount of love everyone in the room was sending his way. Even though the band completely commanded Roseland from before they even came onstage, the Radiohead we saw was much looser and jovial than in years past. Thom joked about how often the techs had to move their gear around inbetween songs and even lightly flubbed lyrics on "Reckoner" and the surprise contribution from The Bends "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" - which was in turn the start of a seemingly unplanned second encore the band came out to do because no one in Roseland would leave after the lights and venue music came on. Blaming the flubs on senility, he acknowledged the bond he'd created with the fans and asked us to help him sing the lyrics to the night's closing song, "Nude," capping a sweeping and stellar performance that everyone in the audience had longed for and will likely never forget.


Check out the full setlist below. And to my point about Radiohead fans being awesome, there's already some great video available of the show, some of which we've posted below as well.

Radiohead @ Roseland Ballroom 9/28 Setlist

Little By Little
Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
Subterranean Homesick Alien
All I Need
The One I Love (R.E.M. Cover) / Everything In Its Right Place
Lotus Flower
15 Step
The Daily Mail

Give Up The Ghost
The National Anthem
Morning Mr. Magpie

ENCORE 2 (Because no one would leave when the house lights went up)
Street Spirit (Fade Out)


  1. Excellent review. Thanks Damien! Great to have these fresh videos in one place too

  2. Thank YOU for the ticket, brotha!