|09-30-2003, 10:54 AM||#33|
Join Date: Jan 2003
Local Time: 05:53 PM
Review from my local paper about Sunday's RH show.__________________
POP MUSIC REVIEW
Radiohead devotees get a mind-bending experience
The English band rocks in first local concert in 8 years
By George Varga
POP MUSIC CRITIC
September 30, 2003
Feelings of dread and alienation have seldom sounded so acute and liberating as in the music of Radiohead, whose Sunday night concert at Coors Amphitheatre seemed to revel in – and transcend – those extremes.
This band of moody visionaries transformed existential angst into vehicles for musical catharsis. Performing with understatement one moment, rocking with fist-pumping rage the next, the subversive English quintet made its first San Diego show in eight years a night to remember.
The group took to the stage following a lively set of neo-power-pop by fellow Brit band Supergrass. Led by singer Thom Yorke, Radiohead opened with "2+2=5" and "Sit Down. Stand Up," the first two numbers from its latest album, "Hail To the Thief" (a title inspired by George W. Bush's still-controversial 2000 election to the presidency).
Both provided a template for much of the mind-bending concert that would follow by Yorke, guitarist-keyboardist Jonny Greenwood, guitarist Ed O'Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway. Each song started slowly and gently, built up in tempo and intensity, then shifted back and forth again.
It was a stunning display of tension and release, of challenging listeners. And it perfectly underscored the band's lyrical focus on what Bob Dylan once described as "Desolation Row."
Or as Yorke sang during the flamenco-tinged "2+2=5," in a voice that was equal parts doubt, desperation and defiance:
It's the devil's way now / There is no way out / You can scream and you can shout / It is too late now / Because you have not been paying attention / Paying attention! / Paying attention!
"Sit Down. Stand Up" was just as ominous, as Yorke intoned: Walk into the jaws of hell / Anytime, anytime / We can wipe you out / Anytime, anytime.
On paper, this might read like the start of an unrelentingly depressing night. At least it might to those unfamiliar with Radiohead's artful brand of uncompromising music, which in recent years has seen the band abandon conventional verse-chorus-verse song structures in favor of quirky, densely layered compositions that draw more from electronica, avant-jazz and contemporary classical music than rock.
But Sunday's nearly two-hour performance was ultimately uplifting, not a dissonant descent to doomsday. In Radiohead's brooding anti-anthems, liberation is achieved by finding the hidden beauty beneath life's ugly truths and by confronting the pain of everyday existence to rise above it.
With Yorke at the helm, the band and the sold-out crowd of almost 20,000 bonded in such stark yet stirring songs as "We Suck Young Blood" and "The Gloaming." The band's repertoire featured a generous array of songs from "Hail To the Thief," a proudly uncommercial album that grows better with each listen and is a strong contender for Album of the Year honors. Also included were such past Radiohead favorites as the rousing "Paranoid Android," the little-heard 1996 b-side "Talk Show Host" (with its Woody Allen-inspired refrain: I want to be someone else), and the show's penultimate selection, "Karma Police."
Yorke, who frequently bounded across the stage, playfully dedicated "Karma Police" to "the full Hollywood experience" he and the band underwent last week during their two-day stint at the Hollywood Bowl.
Dismissed by some as an artistic manic-depressive, Yorke's hyperactive antics were as welcome as they were unexpected. He repeatedly mugged and arched his eyebrows during "You and Whose Army?", one of several songs that found him singing while playing piano.
The crisp sound mix demonstrated anew that bands playing at Coors can achieve sonic excellence, if they take the time and money to do so. The tall, thin video screens to either side of the stage were well-employed. But unlike the eye-popping stage lighting, the screens did not always project clearly, especially to the thousands of fans on the lawn at the rear of the venue.
Then again, that may have been a deliberate move from a band whose fifth encore Sunday, "How to Disappear Completely," reaffirmed its desire to make big statements in small ways.
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