Friday, August 22, 2008

Radiohead -- Live at the White River Ampitheater, Auburn, WA 2008-08-21

With the inconstant rain dredging up vivid flashbacks of the 2001 fiasco in Washington D.C. where I was *supposed* to see Radiohead on the Amnesiac tour, but instead was treated to the watery wrath of an angry god that flooded the entire area, Sabre and I made our way up the White River Ampitheater in Auburn. Fortunately, all precipitation-related crises were averted. *

The band opened with "15 Steps" and a stage show that would be the envy of any Pink Floyd laser light extravaganza. About 100 or so LED lighting columns were suspended from the stage scaffolding and used to amazing effect, ranging from full-motion, 3D-like graphics reminiscent of media player visualizations, to scrolling words and song lyrics. Even more impressive, the cables were thin enough to provide a lot of visual pop without obstructing the view of the band members onstage, but they also had cameras mounted on them that projected live images on a five-panelled film screen behind the band. This was undoubtedly the best stage set-up I've ever seen in terms of balancing spectacle with subtlety.

All of which leads us to the music. For two hours, the band cherry-picked from the best of their back catalog while playing every song from In Rainbows, minus 'House of Cards.' They even pulled out 'In Limbo', the first time they've played that since 2003 (which was ironically also at White River). I got a little chuckle out of the "it should be raining line" in 'The Gloaming', considering it was raining on those poor folks out on the lawn, and the acoustic guitar duet between Thom and Jonny also pulled a laugh out of the crowd when Thom flubbed his part and Phil (the drummer) came out onstage and threw a dollar into the buskers' virtual hat anyway. Favorite moments of mine included a spectacularly strange 'Climbing Up The Walls,' which took on a low-budget, science-fiction movie vibe with the sound effects Jonny was wringing out of the synthesizers, a gorgeous take on 'All I Need' featuring a full-size piano, and a nod to The Bends with 'Talk Show Host', a favorite of Sabre's that she was hoping to hear so she could visualize the scene in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet that used the song to such great effect.

Thom didn't say much throughout the show, but he did dedicate 'You and Whose Army?' to the protestors of the WTO convention in Seattle in 1999, denouncing the WTO as still being corrupt. They followed this song with 'No Surprises,' perhaps as a not-so-subtle continued commentary on the present state of political affairs; it's a shame that such observations have been relevent for far too long.

The band ended the show fittingly enough with 'Everything In Its Right Place', and then they were gone. When your only criticism of a performance is that you didn't get a little more, that's when you can be sure you've just witnessed a great show.

* Unfortunately, The Liars made us feel like we were being musically waterboarded. The forty minutes of inanity that this band put us through seemed to be a calculated effort to guarantee that Radiohead sounded like the BEST BAND EVER, if only by comparison to the travesty of their opening act. I cannot believe that such a sub-par band managed to wrangle the opening slot. I'm guessing that there is some nepotism afoot.


01. 15 Step
02. Reckoner
03. Optimistic
04. There There
05. All I Need
06. Pyramid Song
07. Talk Show Host
08. The National Anthem
09. The Gloaming
10. Videotape
11. Lucky
12. Faust Arp
13. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
14. Climbing Up The Walls
15. Dollars and Cents
16. Nude
17. Bodysnatchers

18. How to Disappear Completely
19. Arpeggi/Weird Fishes
20. Idioteque
21. In Limbo
22. Street Spirit

23. You And Whose Army?
24. No Surprises
25. Everything In Its Right Place

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2008-08-09 Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts, KEXP BBQ (Seattle)

After his acclaimed performance in the KEXP studios last month, the radio station asked Joe to play at their 6th Annual summer BBQ, and not only did he agree but he brought his band with him. He might have also brought fortunate weather as well, since the rainstorm that pelted us all during Common Ground's set (and threatened during Helio Sequence's) finally cleared and rewarded us with a beautiful double rainbow of happiness that Joe in particular seemed to appreciate. Sometimes it's the little things which have the greatest effect, but coincidence or not, the band went on to perform magnificently.

This was the first time in several months that the Lonely Astronauts had played out, and although Jen Turner was unable to make the show due to a prior commitment, Kraig Jarrett Johnson handled both his and her guitar parts admirably well, and he clearly relished what he was doing. Everyone else on-stage were in equally high spirits, with Sybil Buck literally bouncing up and down and around several times. Maybe they got high off the fumes from Greg 'G-Wiz' Wieczorek's birthday candles earlier (or our in-concert sing-a-long of 'Happy Birthday'), I dunno. But it was an exciting, energetic set that started off with the excellent new song, 'Temporary People' and alternated mostly between tracks from "Nuclear Daydream" and the soon-to-be released, "Temporary People", with one nod to "Let's Just Be" coming in the form of 'Spacemen'.

The band were supple but sharp. Sybil had some hesitation during a bridge breakdown during 'Turn You On,' as she switched to playing slower single notes and looked to Kraig for direction, but she covered herself well and made it back to the verse just fine. This song in particular seems to have undergone some changes, with the (re-?)introduction of a new bridge section that wasn't there during Joe's solo performances of the song.

This was the first time I'd heard (or even heard of) 'Say Goodbye', and it was powerful in it's elegance. Joe dedicated this one to the late Bernie Mac, although I'm sure Isaac Hayes (or at least "Chef") would have been included as well, if only we'd known.

A fiery version of 'Spacemen' closed out the show at full tilt, with one of G-Wiz's sticks flying away from him, Joe jumping up on the kick drum and launching himself off, Sybil positively aglow doing backup vocals, and Kraig channeling the spirit of two guitars through his lone instrument. That, my friends, is a rock and roll show.

And if I was in danger of forgetting it, there were a handful of fake fans fighting their way to the front to remind me, several of them screaming about how much they love Joe, while then proceeding to scream/talk at their friends during the entire song. Joe fans are generally less vapid than that, and I'd almost forgotten what true festival ambience was like when the starpower (and beer) goes to their heads and people are desperate to make themselves part of the experience. Ah, the madding crowd!

Photo courtesy of: the intrawebs (thank you intrawebs!)