My first taste of Radiohead came at the age of thirteen, when my guitar teacher Chris got sick of my bringing in Good Charlotte songs to learn. At that age, my musical leanings were determined by how hot the lead singer was, which might be telling (though I would like to clarify that, while at thirteen my definition of hot was anything with a Y-chromosome and without acne, now that I am less dictated by my hormones, my taste in men has narrowed). Chris, seeing I needed help, demonstrated to me the riff of ‘Street Spirit’ and threw all my shitty CDs out the window (metaphorically speaking). He handed over copies of OK Computer and The Bends. It was, you might say, a spiritual awakening. This was music. While my guitar now resides in a dusty, cob-webbed corner of my little brother’s cupboard, I’ve carried Radiohead with me my through my teen years and into my twenties. I devoured their new found electronic experimentation with Amnesiac and Kid A, and I was thrilled when they got political with Hail To The Thief’s stripped-back anger and references to 1984. I was down when somewhere between In Rainbows and The King of Limbs that the normally reserved Thom Yorke said, fuck it I’m gonna dance. While Radiohead has come a long way from the adolescence of Pablo Honey, each album has demonstrated a clear progression from the last offering. Their repertoire comes as across as an interconnected thesis, each progression an organic one. It’s given us devoted fans a chance to grow with the band.
Another great thing Radiohead has managed to do, especially in the last few years is achieve universal love. The crowd at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Monday night was a mixed bag from long-time devotees with their kids, exposing a new generation to Radiohead, all the way down to people who came late to the party like myself. As they took to the stage the venue assumed an almost spiritual tone, as if we’d come to church to worship rather than watch a band. When they launched into ‘Bloom’ I swear you could hear everybody in the audience taking a collective breath. The energy they began with was astounding, and they sustained that energy through the two-hour set. Every member of the band is A-grade, and twenty years on, the intensity and integrity Radiohead bring to a performance hasn’t wavered. Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien played about fifty instruments altogether, ranging from the guitar to the drums to the glockenspiel. Jonny Greenwood’s aggressive instrument-playing was intense and thrilling. Thom Yorke had a great time dancing, and from my view in the nosebleeds I spotted Ed O’Brien having a secret boogie on the side lines to amp himself up for the next song. Delightfully reminiscent of a cross between John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction: what I’m saying is, the dude has MOVES. The set list was fleshed out with mostly newer tracks, spliced with a healthy dose of old favourites like ‘Pyramid Song’ and ‘There There’. They closed with ‘Idioteque’, which got everybody in the audience out of their seats in their own Thom Yorke rhythmical interpretations. I didn’t understand the divide between hearing Radiohead recorded and hearing them live, but having them play in front of you and feeling their music with their energy takes the experience to new dizzying heights. Two days later and I’m still reeling, refusing to take off the Radiohead t-shirt that my boyfriend bought be because if I’m still wearing it then it means I’m kind of still there.
Words - Lil G
Photo - Chris ‘all killer no filter’ King