red lights

All Hail!

Alpine Valley Music Theatre
East Troy, WI
Aug. 23, 2003

Radiohead Radiohead Radiohead

Story by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

With expectations running high, Radiohead's overall performance last Saturday at Alpine Valley lived up to them all - except possibly their choice of songs. That's because this Oxford, England-based band's 23-song set weighed so heavy on their latest (and quite arguably weakest) album to date Hail To The Thief . Half of the entire show featured these new songs - many engaging, captivating and spiritually uplifting, while a couple of others ("Scatterbrain" and "Myxomatosis") just went on a little too long.Radiohead But in defense of this show, the band themselves incorporated all of their groundbreaking work - from guitar-fueled Britpop swelling with majestic melodies to atmospheric computer driven electronica with twisted jazz sensibilities - together for a well-textured and engrossing show.
That's not to say that Hail To The Thief is a disappointing album either - far from it. It's just not necessarily the strongest effort Radiohead's produced. But proving that even some of their lesser material is still better than most other artist's music today, the band opened up the evening with "2 + 2 = 5," where vocalist Thom Yorke, dressed in a dark T-shirt over an untucked and oversized Oxford dress shirt (giving the appearance that he was wearing gym shorts over his trousers), became unglued midsong as he ranted and raved around Jonny Greenwood's deafening sonic wall of guitars. Mirroring the new album the band then broke into their second number "Sit Down. Stand Up" (the prior which Yorke did behind an upright piano, the latter which the audience did for the entire show). This mesmerizing number found Yorke's lilting vocals ethereally hovering over the melody as if engaged in some kind of strange out-of-body experience.
Adding interest to one of the newer tracks, the band created a palette of bubbling industrial undertones to "Backdrifts," while the perverted drum-and-bass and ominous rhythms that invaded "The Gloaming" whole-heartedly embraced their Kid A deconstructualist philosophy. This made for the perfect segue into their masterpiece "Idioteque," which, with it's vertebrae-snapping beats hiccuping and percolating throughout, drove Yorke into a frenzy as he finished out the song madly running in place and speaking in strange bloodcurdling tongues. Radiohead The lead singer then hunkered down behind the upright piano again as he pounded out some sinisterly sour keys for "We Suck Young Blood," a dark, foreboding dirge that could quite easily act as the second coming of Goth rock. On the percussion heavy version of "There There," the first single from their latest album, guitarists Ed O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood added their own primal beats on their small upright kits along with drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood's invigorating rhythm section, while Yorke proved his own salt on guitar before Jonny cut in with his axe and tore it to shreds.
And speaking of tearing things up, for any who may have feared that the guitars might be toned down somewhat - considering their recent exercises into avant garde electronic music with Kid A, Amnesiac and even parts of Hail To The Thief - Jonny squelched any notions of that. From the sizzling licks performed on "Lucky," from OK Computer, to the kill-'em-all-first-and-ask-questions-later, slash-and-burn leads on "Just" to the drama-building six-string bingeing and purging throughout "Paranoid Android," this show was nothing short of a guitar lover's dream.
It wasn't all breakneck rhythms and stinging guitars though, as proved on the tragically fragile "Fake Plastic Trees" and wonderfully simplistic "No Surprises," where Jonny gently held the melody by the hand with a lovely childlike xylophone. They also later dove headfirst into the sonic jazz cacophony of "The National Anthem" during one of their encores, where Yorke's vocals floated in and out of the otherworldly musings emitted from Jonny's electro gadgetry.
Even if the show did ultimately weigh a bit heavy on newer material (which, in all fairness, they are on the road to promote), it was still a magic night of music in the Valley with one of the most magical bands in the Land. All Hail.

Radiohead's Setlist from Alpine Valley Music Theatre
1) 2+2=5
2) Sit Down. Stand Up
3) Where I End and You Begin
4) Kid A
5) Backdrifts
6) Lucky
7) Paranoid Android
8) Sail to the Moon
9) Fake Plastic Trees
10) We Suck Young Blood
11) Go To Sleep
12) Just
13) Scatterbrain
14) The Gloaming
15) Idioteque
16) No Surprises
17) There There
Encore 1:
18) You and Whose Army?
19) The National Anthem
20) Myxomatosis
21) Street Spirit
Encore 2:
22) Karma Police
23) Everything In Its Right Place

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