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Meditations on Radiohead at Riverbend (part 2)

MEDITATION #2: RADIOHEAD IS A BAND

Radiohead is a band. I mention that because quite often bands break down into separate islands that never quite connect. Sometimes this happens when a newly-formed “supergroup” fails to focus its energies, and sometimes it happens when a band that has been together a long time starts to splinter; when they play, you can feel the tug of war going on during a performance, either that or the apathy after they lay down their arms. With Radiohead the extended instrumental sections could threaten to make lead singer Thom Worke seem like an accessory, but that never happened. At one point—I can’t remember if he was singing part of the time or not—he was playing maracas, and while sometimes it seems like singers play incidental percussion in order to have something to do, what he played was well miced and really added something to the song. The light show was great; although it was dazzling, it never took over; but the best visuals of the night occurred when Thom raised his arm and then brought it down quickly and then made some other movements that the band synched with perfectly; powerful stuff.

Inevitably by the time a band releases a second album the talk begins of “the golden are” versus the decline, and some Radiohead fans prefer the pre-electronic phase of the band. Quite frankly, I’m not well enough versed with their music to have strong feelings either way – and, quite frankly, I didn’t pick up a strong techno vibe from their performance. Maybe if I knew more that would be more of an issue. What I will say is that I like where they are right now. What I hear are heavily syncopated rhythms that seem compatible with their sonic explorations – and I’m damn glad I saw that with two drummers, which is a new thing. It just adds more layers to the layers to the layers that are already there. At Riverbend I didn’t hear computers. I heard humans.