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Live Review: Radiohead kick off North American tour in New York (7/26)

Thom Yorke and co. install a Moon Shaped Pool at the legendary Madison Square Garden

Radiohead - Killian Young
Radiohead – Killian Young

    Earlier this week, a Christian ministry used Thom Yorke’s mug for their enlightening infographic, “8 Things That Satan Uses to Enslave and Destroy You”. Of all the silly factors attributed to the Radiohead singer’s face, the one that comes closest to an iota of truth just might be idolatry. Fans were, after all, camped out since the early morning for prime spots at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, a show that sold out nearly instantaneously.

    When Radiohead took the stage, the packed Garden audience rose to their feet, unleashing a deafening roar. As the lads from Abingdon were playing their first US show in over four years, it was clear they’d been sorely missed. Yorke waved his hands emphatically, amping up the crowd as he dove into recent single “Burn the Witch”. Bathed in red light, the group took control from the get-go with their fierce rendition.

    The early part of the set followed the track listing of A Moon Shaped Pool, and the transition between “Burn the Witch” and “Daydreaming” showcased the breadth of the record’s sonic scope. The intensity of the show was assisted by a second drummer, Portishead’s Clive Deamer. (Deamer had previously joined the band in support of The King of Limbs.) This move added extra power behind the live versions of tracks like “Ful Stop” and “Bloom”. But for the most part, all eyes were on Yorke.

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    On “15 Step” — the tour debut for the song — Yorke danced along with his trademark jerky motions as he eagerly bounced across the stage. Toward the end, he raised his hands as if orchestrating the crowd, earning wild cheers. For “2 + 2 = 5”, Yorke stretched his arms out right before the track accelerated to its climax, as if to prompt the audience to unleash their energy. The regular set ended on a high note with “Idioteque”, complete with its glitchy breakdown and intense strobe lights.

    The band exited the stage, as the crowd’s yells for more reached a fever pitch. Radiohead quickly returned, kicking off their first encore with “Let Down” — their first time playing that track in a decade. “Paranoid Android” was the clear highlight of the first encore, though, which showcased Jonny Greenwood’s excellent, screaming guitar solos as alternating red and blue lighting frantically shifted onstage.

    As the house lights flickered on, the entire crowd applauded with a standing ovation. Yorke stuttered backward, seemingly overwhelmed by the positive response. It seems that after all these years, the frontman remains legitimately surprised by how beloved they are. (I noticed the gentleman next to me was refreshing setlist.fm throughout the show and realized that the superfans were collaborating and annotating the setlist in real time.) After “Nude” and “Bodysnatchers”, the band disappeared offstage again. And once more, the audience screamed for more.

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    “You’d like to stay all night, right?” Yorke quipped as the band crossed the two-hour mark in their massive set with a second encore.

    Unfortunately all good things did have to come to an end. “Bloom” saw Deamer, Greenwood, and Philip Selway all simultaneously drum for a mighty, synchronized effect. And the crowd eagerly clapped along to “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, a fitting end to this career-spanning set. I’m sure that if the fans had their way, Radiohead would still be playing at MSG right now.

    Setlist:
    Burn the Witch
    Daydreaming
    Decks Dark
    Desert Island Disk
    Ful Stop
    Lotus Flower
    The National Anthem
    15 Step
    No Surprises
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
    Separator
    Planet Telex
    The Numbers
    2+2=5
    Everything in Its Right Place
    Myxomatosis
    Idioteque
    Encore 1:
    Let Down
    Present Tense
    Paranoid Android
    Nude
    Bodysnatchers
    Encore 2:
    Bloom
    Street Spirit (Fade Out)

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