HOLLYWOOD — To those unfamiliar with what is arguably the most celebrated rock band of the last 10 years, the scene Thursday night at the Hollywood Bowl probably looked a little strange.
On a giant eggshell of a stage, a small man frolicked around, wiggling his limbs like spaghetti noodles and mumbling things like "two and two always makes up five." But to music fans who take their tunes smothered in originality, it was the prime rib of rock concerts.
Midway through their first North American tour in two years (see "Radiohead Announce North American Tour"), Radiohead were clearly in town to allow their legions of fans to get acquainted with Hail to the Thief live. Of the 14 songs on the new record, Radiohead played 12, leaving out only "A Wolf at the Door" and "We Suck Young Blood."
Imagine the Blue Man Group at a post-show jam session (when the blue is worn off) and you'll get an idea of how Thursday's show began. Guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien took the stage pounding a drum rhythm that seemed to have a pied piper-like effect on fans, who raced from the beer lines to their seats.
"In pitch dark/ I go walking in," Thom Yorke sang as he did just that, sashaying in to the opening lines of "There There." The darkness would only last a few seconds, however, as the columns behind drummer Phil Selway slowly erupted into a stunning display of yellow rays.
The foliage surrounding the outdoor venue offered little color, but Radiohead made up for it with a different fall color light show for each song ("Lucky" was red, "Myxomatosis" was green, etc.). And adding to the visuals were video screens on each side of the stage that broadcast the show, but with a distorted, psychedelic take.
"Good evening, everyone. Nice to see you," Yorke welcomed, taking a breath after dancing silly to "2 + 2 = 5." That was about the extent of the singer's talking between songs, although he did later mumble something about California's recall election and introduce a couple of songs, including "Scatterbrain" as "a love song" and Pablo Honey's "Lurgee" as "an old song off our first record."
Radiohead are known for layering their songs with beats and effects, but if there was anything especially noteworthy about Thursday's show it would be the way the band transformed several numbers into sort of rave anthems.
On "Myxomatosis," for instance, Jonny and Ed backed off their fuzzy guitar parts to showcase the song's stuttering beat, which had Yorke doing a skipping version of the moonwalk.
"Where I End and You Begin" started with a bass groove from Colin Greenwood so thumping that it set off a car alarm. By the song's end, fans were dancing in the aisles as freely as hippies at Woodstock. Yorke, meanwhile, stood eyes closed, lost in the lyrics, repeating "I will eat you alive" into a blur (Fred Durst, take note).
Yorke began several songs on piano, but most of the time he was up dancing and screaming by the end. You don't know the word "crescendo" until you've heard "Paranoid Android" or "Exit Music (For a Film)" live.
Of the 23 songs Radiohead played in their two-hour set, each received a rumble from the crowd as it began, although a couple did stand out as favorites, the first being the infectious "The National Anthem" near the end of the first set. OK Computer's "Karma Police," which began the second encore, earned equally excited cheers and definitely had the most vocal accompaniment.
The evening's most poignant moment came when Yorke was left onstage alone to begin "I Will," seemingly one of the most personal songs of his career. Toward the end, he paused before singing the words "Rise up" just long enough for a fan to take advantage of the silence. "Rise up, Thom!," she yelled, letting the singer know fans had his back.
Supergrass opened the show, entertaining a half-full venue with piano-driven rock tunes like "Pumping on Your Stereo" and "Caught by the Fuzz."
- "There There"
- "2 + 2 = 5"
- "Where I End and You Begin"
- "Paranoid Android"
- "Sail to the Moon"
- "I Will"
- "The Gloaming"
- "The National Anthem"
- "Exit Music (For a Film)"
- "Sit Down. Stand Up"
- "Like Spinning Plates"
- "A Punchup at a Wedding"
- "Go to Sleep"
- "Street Spirit"
- "Karma Police"
- "Everything in Its Right Place"
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.