Radiohead – August 12, 2008 (Camden, NJ)

[N0te: This piece first appeared in an earlier instance of my blog (troubledsoulsunite.blogspot.com) which has since been shut down. It’s being reposted here under the “My Favorite Posts” section of the blog.]

To the casual radio fan, this show would’ve been torture. Last night’s Radiohead setlist included none of their major radio hits; no High and Dry, no Karma Police, no Paranoid Android, no Creep.

But then again, if you’re just a casual radio fan, you have no place at a Radiohead concert.

Besides Pablo Honey and Amnesiac, then band sampled from all of their studio album, relying heavily on the recently released In Rainbows which they played in it’s entirety.

Many times, when going to see a band, you hope they only play a few tracks from their new album, and instead play mostly their older hits. No one was wishing that at this show (or at least I wasn’t). In Rainbows is such a phenomenal album that I really wanted to hear all of it.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t almost crap my pants when they played that first chord from The Bends. Or when they played National Anthem. Or Planet Telex. Or Street Spirit.

Beyond the killer set (in my opinion), what impressed me so much was their ability to recreate such a complex and intricate sound onstage. I guess it doesn’t hurt to have a musical genius for a lead guitarist. Johnny Greenwood, looking somewhat like a mime in his black and white striped t-shirt, played guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, percussion, and more. There was a point during the show (I think it was during Street Spirit) when Johnny was playing the notes on his piano with the headstock of his guitar, while playing guitar. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. This guy is the opposite of most other rock musicians. Most lead guitarists are loud, flamboyant, and run around onstage playing fairly simple licks behind their backs to get a crowd response. It’s all showmanship with no actually talent. Johnny embodies talent and does it quietly and calmly. But that’s not to say he doesn’t get into the music. When the songs kick up (which happens at the end of almost every Radiohead song) check out stage right to see Johnny wildly flailing his strumming arm, as if he’s trying to rip the strings off his guitar, and beat it into oblivion, sending a mess of wood and bronze coating flying into the crowd as he sits back, happy at what he was able to create and subsequently destroy.

Thom Yorke is also a crowd pleaser, with his beautifully haunting falsetto voice and his thin dancing body. Note to Radiohead fans: If you’ve never seen Thom Yorke dance, you’re truly missing out on something: Quirky arms flying right and left, legs seemingly disconnected from the top of his body- this guy truly does not know how to dance conventionally, but sure does a good job of doing it in his own entertaining way. Plus, whenever he thanks the crowd, you can hear his British accent- which is loads of fun. Everyone loves a Briton.

So there you have it. Radiohead is a must see on the live show list. And if you tell me that you haven’t really gotten into them yet, and that their music is just too weird for you, then just shut up, stop spewing you’re musical ineptitude, and given them another listen. And try not to expect a band that’s derivative of Zeppelin, the Who, or The Dead (as so many contemporary bands are these days). If you keep your mind and ears open, and listen for something different, something great, then maybe you’ll get it. Because these guys, both in their writing and in their performing, are musically brilliant.

A final note to the douchebag who stole my poster- when I die, I will take a trip down to hell, find you, rip my Radiohead poster off the wall of your cell, and kick your ass. I mean, c’mon, who steals at a concert? Thankfully, they were only $10, and I could afford to buy another one. But then again, the cheap price begs the question again- why would someone feel the need to steal something that costs so little?

Grizzly Bear opened up and put on a pretty good performance. I’m pretty sure I’d never heard them before, but I still enjoyed lying on the grass in the lawn section, soaking in their chilled out psychedelic vibes as we watched the sun set on the skyline of Philadelphia.

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