For Radiohead, these shows served as a warm-up for their 2012 tour beginning in February. For everyone else, it was as if the music gods decided to grant New York City an unexpected gift in the form of five English lads (six if you count drummer Clive Deamer of Portishead). The news got music fans beyond New York excited—except for a “secret” gig at Glastonbury, people around the world had been clamoring to see this band live since they released The King of Limbs earlier this year through their site and in a limited newspaper album form as well. Radiohead was in town to promote this album and its remix companion (TKOL RMX 1234567 with seemingly just television appearances at first (spots on SNL, Jimmy Fallon and The Colbert Report) but then announced two nights at Roseland Ballroom (but not at Zucotti Park). The events sold out nearly instantaneously and the celebrity attendance, at least on the first night, was high (reports said Chris Martin, Cameron Diaz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a guy in The National and more were there).
The drummers, Deamer and Phil Selway’s dedicated work balanced each other out as they were placed on both sides of the tight stage (Roseland is an intimate venue for a band of Radiohead’s stature) with Colin Greenwood in between them and the offensive line of Ed O’Brien, Thome Yorke and Jonny Greenwood in front of them. The band’s near two hour set tread very lightly on older songs, which isn’t a bad thing considering Radiohead’s superb output (think less OK Computer and more In Rainbows). But the two older songs were still a treat. “Subterranean Homesick Alien” (described as “slightly older than “Feral” which made its live debut) had fans roaring with delight and appeared early in the set while the grandiose “Street Spirit” came in second to last, as part of a truly surprise encore—the house lights had already gone up causing many people, including a NY Times reporter, to exit.
A couple of unreleased tracks were included in the set, “Staircase”, and, a performance highlight, “The Daily Mail”. This latter track is an accusatory addressed to ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair that cuts at him with the line “You got away with it but we lie in wait”. Yorke followed up with comments about the film Inside Job and indicated that bankers are still working “a few blocks from here”.
Yorke paid tribute to his friends from the departed band R.E.M. by throwing a bit of their hit “The One I Love” before going into “Everything in its Right Place”, which sliced and diced Yorke’s falsetto into so many pieces it vanished into the guitar swirls. Radiohead does have their own lovely little tracks, ones that are less heavy on music layering but no less powerful. “All I Need” had people shuffling along to the murky lyrics “I’m in the middle of your picture / lying in the reeds”. And then there was the song “Nude” (which Yorke requested help on because he was “obviously going senile”), which closed out the night wordlessly, as Yorke cooed over the guitar melody and methodical syncopation.
Little By Little
Subterranean Homesick Alien
All I Need
Everything in its Right Place (“The One I Love” intro)
The Daily Mail
Give Up The Ghost
The National Anthem
Morning Mr Magpie
[Encore break 2]:
Street Spirit (Fade Out)