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
04. There There
05. All I Need
06. Pyramid Song
07. Talk Show Host
08. The National Anthem
09. The Gloaming
12. Faust Arp
13. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
14. Climbing Up The Walls
15. Dollars and Cents
18. How to Disappear Completely
19. Arpeggi/Weird Fishes
21. In Limbo
22. Street Spirit
23. You And Whose Army?
24. No Surprises
25. Everything In Its Right Place