Christopher O'Riley

Chris Bailey
Christopher O'Riley

Christopher O'Riley

City: Evanston, Illinois
Venue: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
Date: 2003-10-11
S E T    L I S T
Subterranean Homesick Alien
Thinking About You
Sail to the Moon
Everything In Its Right Place
Knives Out
Karma Police
Like Spinning Plates
No Surprises
River Man (Nick Drake)
Gag Order
Good Morning, Mr. Magpie
Let Down
Black Star
Bulletproof . . . I Wish I Was
There There
Fake Plastic Trees
Motion Picture Soundtrack
Paranoid Android
Exit Music (For a Film)
Polyethylene Pt. 2
True Love Waits
Anyone Can Transcribe Guitar If you've clicked on the link to read this review, no doubt you've heard of Christopher O'Riley's latest album, True Love Waits. A respected young classical pianist, O'Riley decided to record and release his transcriptions of Radiohead songs due to the positive feedback they received after airing on his NPR show. I should note up front that O'Riley does not sing either live or on record. He is a big enough Radiohead fan to recognize that trying to emulate or improve on Thom Yorke's vocals would be both futile and insulting. Taking this information at face value, one might expect (as I did) that O'Riley is engaged in some insane avant-garde maneuver, trying simultaneously to give rock a "museum quality" and to knock the classical snobs down a notch. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, contrary to all expectations, O'Riley plays Radiohead only because he is part of that I Might Be Wrong mini-album-owning nation of Radiohead freaks that can be found on college campuses all over the country. He plays solely out of fanboy obsession. He mentioned that after the show, he planned on going for coffee with people he met on, the primary Radiohead fansite. He defended Pablo Honey. Looking at the set list (which I've included to give you an idea of what Radiohead songs could possibly be played in a classical setting), you'll notice that he played "Good Morning, Mr. Magpie", a song which has never been recorded or played live. It's only surfaced once, during a Christmas webcast by Thom Yorke. I'd never heard it. The member is front of me had never heard it. Not that I'm knocking fanboy obsession. O'Riley's approach to Radiohead's music, does, however, smack of novelty. As he took the stage, dressed in all black, and gently pressed down "Airbag" in dramatic fashion, it immediately became clear that, without Thom Yorke's voice, these songs could never be as great. O'Riley himself admits to hearing Yorke's voice in his head as he plays. He wisely chooses songs where the vocals are less prominent (he opts out of "Pyramid Song", one of the few Radiohead songs written for piano), but the songs suffer nonetheless. They can still be pretty good, though, and even occasionally moving. Obviously some songs bear O'Riley's treatment better than others, especially "Black Star", a highly underappreciated track from 1995's The Bends (as if you didn't know). The intro to "Black Star" sounds like it was made to be pounded out on the keys. It's also obvious that Radiohead's later work, as a general rule, sounds better on piano, since it's harder for verse-chorus-verse structure to sound as good without vocals. "Thinking About You" and "Fake Plastic Trees" seemed simplistic and bare compared to more lush songs like "Everything In It's Right Place" and "True Love Waits", though they may not technically be so. The show was made far more enjoyable by O'Riley's comic asides, during which he discussed meeting Michael Stipe ("You don't play 'No Surprises'?!?") and Thom Yorke ("You're talking about Gag Order?!?"), and his encounter with a Wall Street Journal interviewer who seriously thought that the proceeds from an album called True Love Waits must go to the abstinence movement. O'Riley: "The time spent transcribing and recording the songs on the album was my particular contribution to the abstinence movement." The highlight, though, by far, was O'Riley's version of "Paranoid Android". He invited the crowd to guess the concert's closer by showing them the long accordion of staff paper it had taken to transcribe it. The song gave him a chance to rock out for a while, something he obviously reveled in, and gave the audience a chance to pretend they were at a rock show for a while, something they obviously reveled in. O'Riley also managed to duplicate the two vocal layers of "Rain down" and "God loves his children" at the end of "Paranoid Android", without which the song is a sham. He took requests during the encore, though he quickly realized that he was only prepared to play four or five other Radiohead songs, from which the crowd enthusiastically chose "Exit Music (from a Film)" from OK Computer. "Exit Music" is the one case where O'Riley chose a song that was entirely and utterly boring without the vocals. He redeemed himself by playing "Polyethylene Pt. 2". I was sure I was the only one on the planet who really liked this song. Then again, I think O'Riley might like David Hasselhoff songs if they were covered by Radiohead. But we all feel that way about at least one band. Admit it. Christopher O'Riley's concert was nice enough, a good substitute for those too poor or too confused by Ticketmaster to attend actual Radiohead shows. As a Radiohead fan, O'Riley did a bang-up job, causing me to go home and dust off my copies of The Bends, OK Computer, and, yes, even Pablo Honey. But that's where O'Riley ends. His music really, really wants to make you listen to some Radiohead. What it does not do, sadly, is make you want to listen to more Christopher O'Riley.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.