Radiohead's "Secret" Show

Radiohead's Tom Yorke is not keen on SXSW, which is why they didn't attend. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

OK, so visiting LA isn't Thom Yorke's idea of a great time. "I'd prefer

being kissed by aunties,'' he groused. Just because he can't stand the city,

though, doesn't mean the Radiohead frontman is going to shortchange it. Rather

than attending a career-enhancing gig in Texas -- more on that in a minute --

Radiohead came to L. A. Thursday night for a "secret" gig at the 250-seat

Troubadour, (first reported in ATN on Mar. 8). Four songs into Radiohead's set,

it was clear that the best days are still in front of them. Album favorites

such as "My Iron Lung" had already been trotted out, but it was a new, untested

song, "Electioneering," that brought the first epiphany of the night. Imagine

if the Clash had been invited to contribute a track to the Beatles' "White

Album" and you've got the idea.

Yorke made it clear early on that the band

wasn't there to play old favorites like "Creep," instead concentrating on newer

material such as "Lucky" and new songs being laid down for the next album. Not

to say the show was devoid of hits. Like a four-year-old who simply can't hide

his emotions, Yorke grinned uncontrollably as the crowd went wild for "High and

Dry." The beautiful "Fake Plastic Trees" was a predictable set highlight, but

Radiohead outdid itself on the dynamics of the song, crashing into the middle

break with all guitars blazing, then stopping it dead to Yorke's whispered

vocals. The only other sound you heard was 250 jaws hitting the floor.

The

show ended with that rock music rarity -- the genuine encore. The set list was

finished, the obligatory two-song encore was played. The lights came up, the

music came on over the PA, but the crowd wouldn't shut up and go away. The band

finally came back and, yes, played "Creep" -- though as a near heavy-metal

version. With no other rehearsed material ready, they kicked through

"Electioneering" for a second time before calling it a night.

The gig was

filled with just plain fans, as most of the industry insiders were out of town

at the South By Southwest (SXSW) music conference in Austin. Long scheduled to

play that industry schmoozefest, Radiohead blew it off. "Why play for a bunch

of people who'll be looking over their shoulders just to see who else is

there?" Yorke said of SXSW. The band will instead fly to New York over the

weekend to tape some live cuts for MTV. But first, watch for the band to

perform "High and Dry" on the Tonight Show this evening.

You can only hope

that Yorke conducted himself better backstage at the Troubadour than he did

last December when Radiohead played KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas and failed

to kiss the proper well-heeled asses. Given it was LA, the backstage was packed

with Very Famous People. "I got really stoned afterwards and got the fear

really badly. There was this series of quite famous people coming up and

talking to me,'' Yorke said. Frozen by nerves and good pot, he wasn't able to

do much more than stare blankly and mutter one-word replies, which was quickly

perceived as snobby British attitude.

"One started in with this lecture

about not behaving properly in front of famous people,'' Yorke said. This

Famous Person, who Yorke declined to name, advised him that next time he needed

to show the proper respect and enthusiasm when Famous People deemed to talk

with him. "Bollocks,'' he muttered.