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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 14, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 15
Radiohead astounds with epic performance at Key Arena
Arts & Entertainment
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Radiohead astounds with epic performance at Key Arena

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

RADIOHEAD
KEY ARENA
April 8


You will meet people - a lot of them, actually - who will tell you that the best living rock band on the planet is Radiohead. And they're not too far off. I wouldn't put the group at the very top of my list, but definitely somewhere near the top. This is because Radiohead is one of those artists still creating music, intertwining good stories and poetic lyrics with beautiful, dramatic and atmospheric backgrounds that nobody else is doing right now.

At a time when most everything you hear on the radio is over-produced and lacking originality, Radiohead seems to always put out new material that is entirely different than anything else out there, such as last year's critically-acclaimed album A Moon Shaped Pool. And whenever the British four-piece goes on tour, about every 5 years, tickets for their shows sell out in a matter of minutes and fans plot road trips to see them multiple times. For the Seattle concert last weekend, all tickets were sold almost immediately, leaving some Radiohead followers with no choice but to catch them in Portland the next evening. A very limited amount of newly released tickets at the box office on Saturday, which became available just hours before the performance, were snatched up quickly. There were even people roaming about Key Arena a half hour before showtime desperately looking for tickets. If they were lucky to find some, they were in for a treat.

Radiohead went on stage at 8:30pm and finished close to 11pm, playing a long list of favorites with a rare three encores. They opened with 'Daydreaming' and midway through the song a row of half-cut disco balls, like shiny little domes, that were lined up perfectly behind the drum set, were illuminated and white strobe lights flickered in all directions around the arena. Because the band slightly changes its set list from city to city, concertgoers weren't sure what to expect on Saturday night, but early indication from the inclusion of 'Airbag' and '15 Step' pointed to signs that Radiohead would be performing some of its biggest hits. It was like Christmas for diehard fans, a few thousand who crammed onto the standing-room-only main floor and the thousands viewing from the lower level sections up to the nosebleed seats.

The only stage decor was a large, curvy-shaped LED flatscreen behind the stage that looked like a giant potato chip mounted sideways, which mostly displayed live feed from the group and occasionally some colorful graphics.

A big reason why Radiohead's music sounds so dreamy and otherworldly is frontman Thom Yorke's mesmerizing vocals, absolutely shimmering on 'Paranoid Android' and the alt rock ballad 'Reckoner,' which both had a trance-like effect on the audience, some of whom closed their eyes and swayed their hands in the air. Yorke, wearing black denims, a light blue long-sleeved shirt and neatly groomed man-bun didn't interact much with the crowd, though sporadically he'd blurt something out, such as 'Thank you, we are pleased to meet you.' At other times, he just muttered a few words that many of us didn't understand.

Yorke, being a multi-instrumentalist, was busy throughout the show shaking a tambourine and maracas, strumming an electric and acoustic guitar, or tapping a keyboard, besides singing twenty-five songs on the set list. On a couple of numbers, he danced spastically around the stage, but for the most part he stood front and center.

The stage was bathed in blood red lighting during the intensely delivered 'Burn the Witch,' as Jonny Greenwood furiously grinded a vertically-held electric guitar with a violin bow. It was only four-minutes long, but it was a glorious four minutes. I loved the arrangement on 'I Might Be Wrong,' especially the cool jam session at the finale by bassist Colin Greenwood and brother Jonny on guitar, not to mention the tempo felt slightly faster and dancier than the recorded version on 2001's Amnesiac album.

Radiohead finished the main set with 'The Numbers,' as Yorke danced on stage and then laughed into the microphone before waving goodbye to the audience. A few minutes later, the group returned and squeezed five songs into the first of three encores, including a brilliant rendition of 'No Surprises' and a delicate version of 'Lotus Flower.' The second encore featured 'You and Whose Army?' and a gorgeous take on 'Everything In Its Right Place,' from the Grammy-winning Kid A album.

'Fake Plastic Trees' was performed during an amazing and surprising third encore. The written set list, usually ripped away from the stage flooring by tour technicians at the end of the concert and thrown out to fans, didn't include a third encore at all, so the additional song was completely unplanned.

This was one of those performances that if given the opportunity I would've sat in my seat and immediately watched it all over again from start to finish. It was the kind of show you can only dream about experiencing every once in five years. Sadly, that's probably the next time we'll get to see Radiohead again in Seattle.

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