Radiohead Manchester Arena October 6th 2012 Live review Earlier this year Louder Than War’s Dan Lucas celebrated his birthday with a night of dancing in the heart of the north of England. Last weekend he saw Thom Yorke do the same as Radiohead played a searing set at the Manchester Arena. Here’s what he thought…

When Thom Yorke claimed a few years back that he was striving to create the perfect dance song, many of us viewed it as a comment born of the same slightly perverse sense of humour that last night saw the Radiohead frontman introduce himself as Lady Gaga.

Those of us who have seen the band on the recent tour though, with the rhythm section of Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway and Clive Deamer to the fore and seemingly heavily influenced by the outstanding support act Caribou, would surely agree that Yorke and Ed O’Brien’s electrocuted dance moves had lost all traces of being incongruous.

At first glance Oxford’s finest art rock group may have very little in common with the Madchester fad of the early 90s – O’Brien being a Manchester University graduate and fan of United, typically living in London, aside – but when the band launched into up-tempo renditions of the likes of ‘Bloom’, ‘Feral’ and new song ‘Ful Stop’ the show turned into a rave for the high-brow post-modern rock fan.

Typically the setlist leaned heavily towards 2011’s The King of Limbs with six songs from the album complimented by a further three post-In Rainbows tracks.  What has proved to be a divisive and difficult record took on a new lease of life in the live setting, the loud bass travelling through even the nether regions of those sat in the arena’s uppermost tier.

The addition of Deamer, best known for his work with Portishead and Robert Plant, also injected the band with a new lease of life and bodes well for the recording sessions earlier this year in which he is rumoured to have taken part.

Of the newer songs ‘Bloom’ was particularly energetic, losing all the seemingly deliberate obtuseness of the studio version and instead thundering off the walls.  At the other end of the scale ‘Give Up the Ghost’, with just Thom and Jonny onstage with looped falsetto vocals and the singer harmonising with himself had the crowd spellbound.

The show wasn’t entirely about the pounding thrusting likes of ‘Myxomatosis’, ‘The Gloaming’, ‘Idioteque’ and ‘The National Anthem’.  Long-term fans were held enraptured by the more haunting likes of the caustic ‘The Daily Mail’, ‘Pyramid Song’ with Jonny Greenwood using a violin bow on his guitar and ‘How to Disappear Completely’; a song considered by many to be the band’s greatest and given the pure emotion pouring from this performance, with Yorke’s falsetto hitting unimaginable notes, it’s a strong claim.

A personal highlight for this reviewer fan was the consecutive triumvirate of ‘Nude’, ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ (the night’s biggest sing-along) and ‘Reckoner’ (which prompted the night’s biggest cheer) from 2007’s all-time great In Rainbows.

The only disappointment felt would have been from old fans hoping to see a 90s throwback (given this was Manchester, I assume this was most people) to remind them of their youth/allow them to churn out the same tired shit about Radiohead being depressing that no one who has ever listened to them believes*.

Only three of the “classics” from this era were played – ‘Airbag’, perennial favourite ‘Paranoid Android’ and the vastly underrated ‘Planet Telex’ – although some concession was made with the inclusion of ‘There There’, ‘Everything in its Right Place’ and the blistering closer ‘Idioteque’.

Ultimately though this was a show by a band looking forward, exploring new ideas, and challenging moth-eaten perceptions… and despite what 50-year-old 90s apologists from the Top Gear audience may protest, this is what makes Radiohead the world’s greatest band.

Setlist:

1. Lotus Flower

2. Airbag

3. Bloom

4. The Daily Mail

5. Myxomatosis

6. The Gloaming

7. Separator

8. These are my Twisted Words

9. Pyramid Song

10. Nude

11. Weird Fishes/

12. Reckoner

13. There There

14. The National Anthem

15. Feral

16. Paranoid Android

17. You and Whose Army?

18. Ful Stop

19. Morning Mr. Magpie

20. Planet Telex

21. How to Disappear Completely

22. Give up the Ghost

23. Everything in its Right Place

24. Idioteque

Thanks to the amazing Liz, who bought me tickets and made sure I had somewhere brilliant to stay over the weekend, not to mention the perfect company for the show. She spoils me. *Delete as appropriate

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here