Radiohead + Other Lives
9 Mar 2012: Scottrade Center St. Louis, MO
Other Lives: take a listen and remember that name for they are bound for greatness. The five-piece band, better yet symphony, from Stillwater, Oklahoma are already on their way. In the summer of 2011, they toured with Bon Iver and more recently they joined Radiohead for the first leg of their 2012 North American tour. I caught Other Lives open for Radiohead’s sold-out show Friday March 9 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Other Lives played a short lived, carefully crafted set totaling 30 minutes of chamber folk with cinematic and orchestral qualities. They filled the entire arena stage with various instruments including but not limited to cello, timpani drums, a drum set, piano and more. Their presence was not flashy nor visually stimulating; rather they concentrated on the music’s power over theatrics or light shows.
Their sound resembled a symphony artfully ebbing and flowing with rich instrumental sweeps. Lush harmonies and moody lyrics combined with bold instrumentation resonated like a thick fog mysteriously looming over a desolate Oklahoma plain. At times Other Lives’ tones reminisced those of Radiohead on their 2000 release Kid A, imbedding abstract lyrics in rich swells of music, emitting tones of blues, purples and grays into the air. Other Lives’ music was a fine wine successfully paired to compliment Radiohead’s decadence.
Then there was Radiohead, a band who needs absolutely no introduction. The five-piece global phenomenon have been touring the world in honor of their 2011 release The King of Limbs, selling out nearly every performance in their wake. Radiohead’s force was undeniable in St. Louis for they played 23 songs, including two encores, in slightly over two hours to an audience of 22,000.
Radiohead filed onstage, humbly waved and welcomed their fans. A towering illuminated screen acted as a stage backdrop, pulsing rays of blue, green, red and orange lights. Approximately eight HD screens suspended above stage, simultaneously projecting live feed of each musician from various angles. Throughout the performance the screens would shift angle, height and image creating abstract views of the band.
Radiohead opened with the subdued electronic scat “In Bloom”. Before taking lead vocals, front man Thom Yorke became possessed by the repetitive free form beats and danced around stage eventually stetting in with drifting falsetto vocals. From there the band stirred up the arena with the electric punch of “15 Step”. Together they systematically moved through movements of spastic mechanical beats cut by luminous guitar and ghostly harmonies.
Radiohead spent the rest of their time journeying through their expansive catalog. Their set appeared to be dominated but not limited to cuts off King of Limbs and Kid A. Naturally several radio hits made it into the mix including the crowd pleasing “Karma Police”. Out of all the popular songs under their belt it was not surprising that “Karma Police” made the cut. (I speculate it was between that or “Paranoid Android”, which the band did not play in St. Louis.) Of course the entire arena sang along, however I got the feeling that the band was not committed to the hit but rather going through the motions to appease the masses. During the second chorus Yorke messed up the lyrics but saved the day by humorously singing “this is what you get when you forget the words”. In response the entire house sang the chorus back to him, which must have been magical from the stage perspective.
St. Louis was the seventh stop on the King of Limbs Tour, making way for first time appearances of “Videotape” and “Lucky”. Yorke worked his chops on the piano for “Videotape” while guitarist Johnny Greenwood showcased his genius in the dramatic rock ballad “Lucky”. Amongst my favorite moments was “There There”, for guitarists Greenwood and Ed O’Brien traded their strings for sets of toms and sticks, and joined the ranks of drummer Phil Selway and guest drummer Clive Deamer. Together the four created a haunted rhythmic forest of voluptuous tribal beats magnified by Colin Greenwood’s bass, whose instrument crept like shadows in the dark. Surprisingly the expansive sound encompassed the entire arena, where one could feel the bass in the pit of their stomach. While each song was artfully executed the band did not do much to explore songs or stretch horizons. Overall Radiohead kept compositions fairly conservative and true to album cuts, saving sounds from getting lost in the vast arena layout.
The audience could not get enough Radiohead for they came back with not one, but two encores. They reached back ten years and ended the evening with a double threat of “You and Whose Army” into “Idioteque”. Fans blurted “Idioteque” with a fury of impassioned rage, breaking just in time to hear Yorke’s falsetto loom over the chaos. The band left the stage following suite as humble and appreciative as they arrived. I left the Scottrade Center overcome with awe, amazement and numb senses of “did that really happen?”
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