Radiohead's Thom Yorke 'Enthralls Crowd' at Intimate Roseland Ballroom Show: Concert Review
A dancing frontman usually enthralls a crowd the most, but for Radiohead's Thom Yorke, fans go wildest when he sits behind a piano, turned away from them.
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Yorke showed Radiohead devotees both ends of the spectrum on Wednesday (Sept. 28), at the first of an intimate two-night stand at New York's Roseland Ballroom -- standalone shows that were announced just last week and sold out instantaneously two days ago. The dance moves came first, heralding the performance of the overwhelmingly electronic tracks off the band's latest release, "The King of Limbs."
Kicking off the nearly two-hour set with "Limbs" opener "Bloom" at exactly 10:15 p.m., the influential UK band sounded slightly muddled at first as the beat caught up amongst the tap-tap-tap of three separate percussionists led by drummer Phil Selway. "Little By Little" came to life with additional instrumentation, and saw Yorke finding his personal groove -- somewhere between Davy Jones' signature shuffle and attempting to scratch an itch you just can't reach -- despite guitar duties.
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"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," a favorite from 2007's "In Rainbows," had the crowd moving as much as the wiggly Yorke. Two songs later, during show highlight "Subterranean Homesick Alien" from 1997's "OK Computer" (and again later during "Codex," which inspired abundant shushing), fans couldn't have been more ecstatic to see Yorke facing the opposite direction, hunched over the keys. "This is a piano," Yorke mumbled, following it up with a statement that equally obvious to the crowd as soon as it heard the first note of the beloved, vintage track: "This one [song] is slightly older than the other ones."
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The audience responded with knowing cheers, too, when Radiohead crept into a subtle tribute to the recently disbanded R.E.M. As a prelude to "Everything In Its Right Place," Yorke led the band into a loose jam of the Athens, Ga. band's 1987 hit "The One I Love." "This one goes out to the one I left behind," he crooned eerily. "This one goes out to the one I love."
A small handful of Radiohead's earlier material - from 2000's "The National Anthem" (featuring fluid work by guitarist Jonny Greenwood) and 2003's "Myxomatosis" to 1995's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," on which Yorke forgot a line -- made its way onto the 19-song setlist, greeted by shrieks from fans. Conversely, unreleased "Limbs" session tracks "Staircase" and "The Daily Mail" were highlighted as well, the latter earning applause even from those unfamiliar with it.
While Radiohead made it clear from the get-go that its intention was to debut "The King of Limbs" in concert for the first time stateside, Wednesday's show was as much about "In Rainbows" as "Limbs." Nestled alongside 14 tracks off the band's last two albums (unreleased new material included) were a mere older five tracks, along with a bit of expectedly incomprehensible stage banter.
The second night of Radiohead's stand at NYC's Roseland Ballroom continues Thursday (Sept. 29), and is likely to sprout a line outside the venue as long as Wednesday's: nearly two hours long and at least six blocks deep, at its peak. Why? To thwart scalping, the band requires concertgoers to show I.D., pick up all tickets at will call and proceed directly into the show. If Wednesday was any indication, fans are probably already lining up.
Radiohead's Setlist, 9/28/2011, Roseland Ballroom, NYC
"Little By Little"
"Subterranean Homesick Alien"
"All I Need"
"Everything In Its Right Place" (with R.E.M./"The One I Love" intro)
"Myxomatosis. (Judge, Jury & Executioner.)"
"Give Up the Ghost"
"The National Anthem"
"Morning Mr. Magpie"
"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"