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Radiohead at Blossom outside of Cleveland, "It brought me to my knees"

Read a concise and collected review at

SET LIST: "15 Step," "There There," "Morning Bell," "All I Need," "Pyramid Song," "Nude," "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," "The Gloaming," "The National Anthem," "A Wolf at the Door," "Faust Arp," "Exit Music (For a Film)," "Jigsaw Falling into Place," "Idioteque," "Climbing Up the Walls," "Bodysnatchers," "How to Disappear Completely"
FIRST ENCORE: "Videotape," "Paranoid Android," "Dollars & Cents," "Reckoner," "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
SECOND ENCORE: "House Of Cards," "Lucky," "Everything in Its Right Place"

I start this review with the setlist (DUH you are saying, we are here, now, reading this, aren't we?)... So, let me explain this absurdly placed addendum.

Radiohead are Magicians. The type of mind-fucking, poetically-speaking, know-it-all (and show few cards) types that have been notorious for being lynched or burned at the stake throughout history. They get into your brains, under your skin, deep inside your heart. They pet your deepest desires and then smash your ego in with itself.

They flat-out rock.

The first time I saw them, in Boston circa 2001 was perhaps the single best concert I'd ever seen to date. Things I'd never seen at concerts before were happening as if it was part of a master plan.

For instance... The community: While I'd been to a lot of concerts for a teenager, I had yet to see an audience so diverse. Not only were there obviously different tastes in music being represented (from the bondage-pantsed goth kids, to dead-heads and metal-heads), but there was such a variety in age, race, and visible social status. There were people smoking pot, people drinking beer, and people (like myself) who remained sober for the entirety. And we were not simply peacefully coexisting, but communing in a way that only those there could understand. If only we could do this as naturally on the streets...

The respect: This was my first Radiohead show. Most of the people I knew who revered them were junkies or just generally a bit psychotic. I had a respect for the Bends, and for the newer albums that had come out, but... well, I guess I just didn't know then. Well, during Pyramid Song, the crowd became silent. Not nearly silent, as I've seen a few times since, but like "i'm in church, communing with god, and getting high off of the preachers words. amen!". I could hear *everyone* in the venue, and when some guy, probably 40-50 feet behind me, whispered "Dude, I dropped my bowl", there were quite a few chuckles from the, oh maybe 200 of the people who heard this also. Then, back to pin drop silence.

And, as is known to happen at Radiohead shows, the essentially supernatural: During the "Rain down... from a great height" bridge in Paranoid Android, a plane passed overhead. Big whoop? We were so close to the airport that this plane blocked out almost the entire sky. It was inaudible, even at such a soft part in the song. And, it was blinking in time to the percussion. Did a plane-looking UFO simply come to take us all home? It seemed entirely possible at the time.

Listening to a mixwit by the author of the article above. I love moments like the "wooh!" "shut up!" "WOOH!" "SHUT UP!" moments in You and Whose Army? There is no better way than trying to shush someone else's experience to embody your own pet peeve.

I digress. My whole point in putting the setlist first is to say that Radiohead weave a story. They build up their lyrics, which may seem naturally divergent, a bit wacky, and deeply enlightened. The lyrics are merely the backbone for a body of art that includes all the fleshy, ethereal musical layers that make them demi-gods. The halo of light is their stage-show, which is more psychadellicaly there than any I've seen, while using a (relatively) simple light show with live video feed.

What is the story they are weaving? IMHO, it is a dawn-of-the-apolcalyptic evolution of mankind tale of lobbyists, lovers and loners, as told by a centaur from the center of the galaxy who is here on vacation and winds up getting trapped in a zoo and his only way to escape is to call home to his people by joining up with some other inmates set on becoming a big motherf*cking rock stars. He says "get me out of this dodge" while, on occasion, sympathizing with a bunch of kids who are broiled in fear, ecstasy and personal economic crises.

Will the centaur make it home? I'm not sure, but he did predict this whole thing. A voice of reason in an unstable time, he is pointing out our flaws, pushing our substance abuse in our faces, laughing at the spaces between us. What causes a human to feel? Because it certainly can't be these things we think. TV? Things upon things upon things...

What they're after is probably akin to Burning Man in the way that life goes beyond these material stockpiles which own our lives and dictate future experience. It is about letting things go, be them perceptions of how people should act when they are having an experience, or little hand-held devices that never leave our iron claws. Write on the sky, and let the clouds roll away.

What other experiences could you have? There were plenty of young people on psychedelics, smoking pot, drinking. There were also quite a few older folk there doing the same thing. There were just as many people who were straight-sober, perhaps a few like myself that were somewhere in the middle. You could be watching the stage, diving into the light show, absorbing the music, studying the musicians or the melodies. No matter what your preference, you would not be disappointed. Perhaps this is what a group experience should be about.

A group experience. A mobius concept. Something that can be perceived. Something unmangled by your individual perception. The truest experiences are like sharing a bed with god. Things make sense without any one person having to put any thought into them. Tears because of pleasure, tears of utter comprehension. A ride on the wave, a drive on the plains. "All matter can be reduced to a single vibration". To be experienced is to understand this, and, well, experience it.

Here was my connection to this experience (and links to lyrics so you can find yours. Find music clips HERE):
15 Step "It comes to us all / It's as soft as your pillow"
There There "we are accidents / waiting waiting to happen" ... and I'm thinking, what, will this be a "best of" set? not that you could avoid it, given the solid state of all their songs... But I've seen them start the show with TT before. Frustration with the crowd sets in. Everyone is silent and non-moving, like they're waiting for Pyramid Song.
Morning Bell "Everybody wants to be a slave / walking walking walking..." I've taken it in my own hands to dance like the goofass I like to be here.
All I Need "I am a moth who just wants to share your light / I'm just an insect trying to get out of the night / I only stick with you because there are no others / You are all I need"
Pyramid Song "All my lovers were there with me / all my past and futures / and we all went to heaven in a little rowboat / there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt" For a minute, I was here before (again). Thinking of you, thinking of me, thinking...
Nude " You paint yourself white / and feel up with noise / but there'll be something missing"
Weird Fishes / Arpegi " I'll hit the bottom / Hit the bottom and escape"
The Gloaming "Murderers / you murderers / We are not the same as you"
National Anthem "Everyone is so near, it's holding on" Conductor waves, here's where you all start dancing now.
Wolf at the Door " dance you fucker dance you fucker / don't you dare" ("i'm glad someone else is feeling this")
Faust Arp "You've got a head full of feathers / you got melted to butter"
Exit Music (for a film) " Today we escape, we escape." don'tlooseyournerve
Jigsaw Falling Into Place "This place is on a mission... just as you dance, dance, dance"
Idioteque "This is really happening.... Here, I'm alive"
Climbing Up the Walls "I am the eyes in the cupboard" Right before this song started, everyone shifted after dancing to Idioteque. The sea of people parted. I was left with a straight-on view of Thom Yorke and his guitar center stage. No one moved back into this plane of vision. He was in my head.
Bodysnatchers "Has the light gone out for you?" (this - "I've seen it coming" is when I affirmed that Thom can time-travel, as I found out later to be verifiable)

How to Disappear Completely "I walk through the walls, I float down the liffy" Look for the lighthouse, follow the beacon - we arrived by beeline to our friends in a sea of 20,000 people.
Videotape "You are my center / When i spin away"
Paranoid Android "Why don't you remember my name?... The panic, the vomit / God loves his children"
Dollars & Cents "All Over the Clovers" This is, perhaps, when most people get it.
Reckoner "We seperate like ripples on a blank shore"
Street Spirit "Be a world, child, form a circle / before we all go under (immerseyoursoulinlove)" Thom still humbles me, i was singing along at the top of my lungs. No one told me to shush, a subtle affirmation.

House of Cards "No matter how it ends / no matter how it starts" Chad and I were being goofy during this song, making our dino-APU/ABA noises that seemed to freak some people out, but was well worth the laughter of others.
Lucky "Pull me out of the aircrash / pull me out of the wreck / cause i'm your superhero / we are standing on the edge"
Everything In It's Right Place " What, what was that you tried to say? " ... The crowds fade out, the trash is everywhere. People come to start cleaning up, they shut down the doors, they look at the tripping stragglers with a "you don't even get it" look. Who are you? "Have you seen my friends in the green shirts and khaki shorts" / "No, I haven't" / "They're right THERE!" (swings arms around to display three of them).

Radiohead must have had at least 50 full time tour people with them, sounds lights stage techs alone. Someone to pick out the stylish clothes they were wearing. Plus all the management and producers that coordinates such a presentation. Bravo to each and every one of them. So, perhaps it wasn't the best Radiohead set I've seen, but the worst radiohead show I've seen was still one of the best concerts of my life, and the best go well into the realm of Zen.

After the concert, my blotto friends and I sat on the lawn til they kicked us out. Everyone around us seemed to have stayed too, perhaps trying to ward of the XX,000 people who had attended the show. Everyone around us seemed to just sit there, nodding and occasionally verbalizing "yeah. yeah." That was about all we could do too. Many great moments with people, many

Got back to the car (miraculously, considering the mobs and the way a parking lot changes when it's half empty). Spun some fire while listening to Consider the Source. If I prevented a few people from driving while too intoxicated, then I did my job, I suppose. Got a chance to talk with some great people, including Melanie, who says that the three pinnacle bands of our generation are Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Tool. I think I have to agree with her. Though, despite my love for all three bands, Radiohead may have gotten a head above with me over the years.

Other shows setlists (more for my own record-keeping and the future possibility of making mixtapes to hear these stories again): Suffolk Downs circa 2001; Tweeter Center in Camden, 2003; Blossom 2003; Blossom 2008.

1 comment:

E. MAY said...

As a side note, I just received a bootleg of this concert. F*ing awesome! Thanks for validating my opinion on what a kickass show this was, Matty D!