BY JACK BRADY
On February 27th, alternative rock legends Radiohead kicked off their first world tour in five years at the American Airlines arena in Miami and shattered all audience expectations. The group had rehearsed for an entire year to translate the complexities of The King of Limbs into a live setting, employing veteran trip-hop percussionist Clive Deamer to help convey the album’s sifting, syncopated rhythms. The band also armed themselves with an arsenal of incredible staging effects. Towering 35-foot columns of light enclosed the rear of the stage, while a wall of over 14,000 recycled water bottles outfitted with LEDs emitted a constant feast of color. Yet, no aspect of the setup was more impressive than the suspended plates, onto which mounted HD monitors broadcasted each band member as they performed, while the plates themselves shifted into an endless array of fractal formations above the stage.
Radiohead entered and immediately jumped into the sinuous rhythms of “Bloom”, casting tsunamis of sound upon the audience with the lofty crests of Yorke’s voice and the thundering bass of Ed O’Brien. Next, the band played through new non- album track “The Daily Mail”, an ephemeral, chilling piano-driven piece, and onto King of Limbs standout “Morning Mr. Magpie”. While the album version is bitter and restrained, its live incarnation possessed an aggressive vitality and edge in thrilling contrast.
The ubiquitous, shuddering bass riff of Kid A’s “The National Anthem”, elicited the first ultra-energetic response from the audience. This led into the most haunting, experimental, track Radiohead have ever produced, the album’s title track “Kid A”. “Kid A’s” incomprehensible vocals of synthetic dread would, in the post 9/11 era, come to define the zeitgeist even more effectively than previous release OK Computer. Yet live, Deamer and Selway gave “Kid A” a grounding and solidity that was completely unlike the studio version. The eerie music-box like piano chords of the original were given a mesmerizing clarity, and Yorke’s vocals reverberated and thrummed. As one of my favorites, I was shocked and ecstatic at the changes.
Fans were also treated to two entirely new songs, “Identikit” and “Cut a Hole”. “Identikit” featured an evocative, melodic mantra of “I don’t want to know” set to the underwater-lounge tones of Greenwood’s guitar, while “Cut a Hole” was an eerie, bare-bones near-instrumental that seemed to be in the early stages of development.
The often overlooked Hail to the Thief track “The Gloaming” is murky and unintelligible, yet live it was transformed into the soundtrack of an extraterrestrial dancehall, as the hypnotic, alien vocals of Yorke fused with an amniotic bass riff so powerful that it nearly brought the audience to their knees.
As Yorke sat down to play Amnesiac’s “You and Whose Army?”, the swiveling LED plates converged above to form a fragmented, green-hued portrait of Yorke, whose gaze and vocals tunneled into the souls and ears of the audience.
Yet for all the mutations and transpositions of the set list, none were more brilliantly warped than “Idioteque”. Originally a frantic, desperate deluge of enemy-at-the-gates anxiety set to spine-chilling computer generated chords, “Idioteque’s” live iteration took on more of the qualities of a rave than a Radiohead concert. By far one of the production’s most spectacular moments, oscillating rays of blue and white careened across the background, as the video plates flashed yellow and turquoise shots of each member’s frenzied performance, until it all exploded into strobing flashes of light.
Yorke then played an acoustic duo performance with Greenwood of haunting King of Limbs track “Give Up the Ghost”. After an initial hiccup with some of the song’s looping vocal echoes, the crowd was instantly mesmerized, an arena wide, perfectly on-beat clap never ceasing throughout the performance.
Shining above everything else performed was In Rainbows classic “Reckoner”. The melodic peals of Yorke’s guitar effortlessly scaled Jacob’s ladder to match the impossibly lofty resonance of his vocals. Deamer and Selway hammered bombastic cymbals and booming snares while the lighting array bathed the arena in linear rays of violet and crimson. The song culminated into a surging, ceaseless crescendo like a star in permanent supernova. For myself, it was the most cathartic, liberating moment of my life, unraveling every fiber of my being. No words will ever be able to describe the performance in even the palest shadow of its glory. Ending the concert with one of their greatest hits, “Karma Police”, Yorke extended the mic to the audience as every member cried out the closing lyrics, “For a minute there, I lost myself…”. As I watched Radiohead walk off the stage in triumph, I immediately knew there was no more perfect description for my experience of the night’s events.