Thursday, April 03, 2008

Radiohead at the Beeb

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Um, yes another post about Radiohead. It's OK, I'm in control, I can kick this thing whenever I want, etc.

I phoned up for gig tix on the off-chance, so colossally bummed was I that I'd failed to hear about their gig at 93 Feet East; lo and behold, the BBC phone me up to tell me that I've won a pair of tickets to see Radiohead play at the BBC radio theatre in front of 400 people. Sure, I think. Why not?

This was the 7th time I've seen them, and while it was the shortest set I've seen them play (about an hour), it was the best, for a bunch of reasons.

A) We were sitting down, which is perfect for wannabe oldsters like us. B) We were so close - some 12 rows back. C) It was classy from the off - this being the BBC, they'd laid on the full rig of smoke, lights, strobe etc. D) As you might expect for a live national broadcast, they'd got the sound just so (listening back the day after, it was amazing how much sound degradation occurs over the Radio. In the flesh, the sound was pristine, loud, and crystalline). E) The band were just on fire - dancing along to Iggy's Lust for Life, Thom mouthing the words as they wait for the live broadcast to begin, then giggling at Mark Radcliffe's intro (something to the effect of "welcome to our way of filling an hour's air-time until Gardener's World. We've got with us a young beat combo who'll be playing a selection of party hits" etc) and THEN launching into a suped-up and super-snarling Bodysnatchers, a song made for live performance, its frantically crashing symbols a backdrop to the super-condensed riffage of all three guitarists.

Highlights? How about Airbag, if you please. That song's never sounded so good, all those crazy cross-riffs and counter-chords, your ears losing the battle to follow all the harmonic ideas being sketched and then elaborated and then a dancing Colin all excited about the bassline he's about to detonate ooooh there it is… Or what about Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, my current favourite RH song, and therefore my single favourite piece of music in the world as of now; the cresting guitar lines of the opening ascent make us grin stupidly, and we get the scalp tingle like a breaking wave as the dark churn of the final coda crashes over us. Or Lucky? So fresh and majestic. As always, it was entrancing to watch Jonny wring ghostly or serpentine or plain weird sounds from his guitar, not to mention his massive bank of gear.

And a special mention for Nude. It took them ten years to get this song right. That's ten years well spent. Live it's just so beautiful, Thom's voice intertwining with the off-beat bass pulse and spectral synths to beguiling effect.

If they're half as good at Victoria Park, it’s going to be something else.

Radiohead at the BBC


shana_hills said...

Yes. What he said....

Seriously though - the show was absolutely amazing. This was only my third time seeing Radiohead, so don't have as much experience to draw from, but was by far the best they've ever been for me. And quite possibly the best gig full stop.

Watching Thom sing Nude live is an otherwordly experience - constantly reminding us of how bloody lucky we were to be there at that moment.

Thank you Beeb. And thank you Lee for picking up the phone!!

Darren said...

Even for a Radiohead agnostic and general curmudgeon like myself this sounds pretty incredible. Shame they didn't play 'Killer Cars' though.