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.
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.