Well, Radiohead was very good last night.
The setlist, the lights and visuals were all great.
I didn't get transported to the palace of rapture and joy, mainly because the sound was awful.
For a 14,000 seater venue you need a lot more than a few speakers hanging either side of the stage to give an immersive audio experience. Even venues half that size have a better setup. The place probably cost millions to build. It wouldn't have been asking much to put in more banks of speakers far stage right and left and half way back over the audience. As it was It was like a big old transistor radio playing loud in the corner. I could have a comfortable conversation with my friends if I wanted. The sound was coming 'from over there' rather than surrounding you and vibrating your body. So although I really appreciated the music and the visuals, it was more of a rational appreciation than something that swept me up and wouldn't let me go.
Like the music the visuals and lighting were ambiguous. The big oval screen at the back showed live images of the band members, but only occasionally faces, often hands and arms, an eye in closeup which was very striking. It was a layered collage of parts rather than any attempt to reveal what was happening on stage through the lighting. Apart from two brief moments, it was never lit for frontman or if someone took a solo kind of part. It was lit for the collective and the songs not any individuals.
During the more uptempo and beats driven songs the screens had animated graphics which worked great. I think over the whole night it was the more beats oriented and discordant electronic tracks rather than the more rock tracks that I connected best with. Thom gave them so much energy, jumping about like a rapper very often. Again with no spot following him through a stage that was always very stylistically lit, which I thought was cool. There were two drummers, and for a couple of tracks Jonny joined in on a third and smaller kit.
It was a very accomplished collage of song choices overall. If they did a more acoustic track after an electronic one it didn't feel like a massive change. I suppose with Radiohead you expect a very broad musical footprint, unlike most bands and somehow too each song felt like a part of a greater whole, rather than the next item ticked off a task list. That was probably the most surprising and rewarding aspect of the show.
The setlist spanned the years, but wasn't one of a legacy act, even thought the 20th anniversary of OK Computer is immanent. The bands output still feels vital and evolving rather than relying on early career triumphs.
I Promise, a cast-off that never made OK Computer, was a highlight. But there were lots of highlights as you'll see on the setlist. Just a real real shame about the sound which would have made the experience more visceral and powerful. I'm lucky to have been there, but ultimately I do feel a bit cheated of the greater experience it could have been.