Radiohead, Meadowbank Stadium, 22/08/06
It seemed like I had being waiting for this gig for an eternity, but the day finally arrived and I awoke with great excitement of the prospect of seeing Radiohead for a fifth time. It is no secret of my admiration for Thom, Jonny and co., so you know right away that this review is going to be more than favourable, but this is how it went anyway......
Before the gig I, and what seemed like an army of friends, soaked up the atmosphere at the annual Edinburgh festival, managing to miss the first support act, Deerhoof, in the process.
We Got into the stadium just as Beck was about to take the stage. Backed up by a tight and cohesive band, together with highly original and amusing visuals (involving puppets, the Scottish dialect and Mel Gibson's Braveheart), he played a good set riddled with all of hits. The crowd-pleasing set was notable for a rougher and harder version of "Devil's Haircut". While other highlights included "Loser" and "Where It's At", which helped get people in the mood for you know who.
However, I can't say I was concentrating 100% on Beck, because my mind was on the impending arrival of the mighty Radiohead. Their first gig in Scotland in nearly 3 years had created an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation within the 10,000 strong crowd.
The crowd rushed to the stage as the first strains of "Airbag" from Jonny Greenwood's guitar announced Radiohead's arrival. One of several amazing moments from OK Computer, the choppy, eastern influenced guitar reverberated around the arena, as the audience lapped it up, singing along with every word.
Next up, "2+2 =5", which is probably my least favourite song from Hail To The Thief, sounded great, especially the spectacular build-up to the chorus. Phil Selway's off-kilter drumming was particularly impressive. This song soon merged into "National Anthem" as a booming bass courtesy of Colin Greenwood burst through the soundsystem. The way this song is played live always ensures that it sounds fresh and exciting every single time.
One song I was looking foward to was "My Iron Lung". Arriving suprisingly early in the set, the song was a slight letdown, as it didn't seem to overcome the large arena and wide open spaces. Normally, it is played at ear-blistering volume, but this time it wasn't to be.
As the swelling crowd surged foward, Thom Yorke immediately halted "Morning Bell", to reprimand those pushing through, before launching straight back into the song without missing a beat or a note, sheer class!. It really was unbelievable musicianship, which was a constant theme throughout the night.
Thom Yorke was also in fine voice, ranging from the whispered vocals of "Fake Plastic Trees" to the full on falsetto in "Lucky". We all know how great a voice he has, however, I didn't quite realise just how powerful it is. It becomes an instrument, that no other band could ever get, especially in the show-stopping "How To Disappear Completey" , "Where I End and You Begin" and the aforementioned "Lucky".
Jonny Greenwood also displayed just why he is the most exciting guitarist on the planet right now. Some out of this world noises came from his battered Stratocaster, as he attacked his guitar with almost disdain. He put in a jaw-dropping performance, especially on "Paranoid Android", switching from keyboards to guitar with unbeleviable ease.
Recent Radiohead sets have included more of the crowd pleasing songs from "The Bends" and "OK Computer", which is something I have to admit not paying much attention to in the last couple of years. In fact, when the first chords of "Just" were struck, I wasn't overly enthusiastic, since I seem to prefer Radiohead's more experimental edge. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. This version of "Just" was more vitriolic and anthemic sounding than normal and it gave the song a whole new lease of life. Im putting it down to burnout from listening to "The Bends" constantly when I was growing up, but I am now right in the mood to reaquaint myself once again.
This performance was a definite triumph for the older material, which all sounded rejuvenated and exciting to me once again. The aforementioned "Just" was the pick of the bunch, closley followed by a haunting version of "Fake Plastic Trees" and a simply stunning version of "Lucky".
Special mention must also be given to "The Gloaming" which, in a live arena, is totally transformed into a monster of a track. The hypnotic bass was almost face-shattering as it pulsed right through to crowd, while Thom Yorke done his best to dance like a lunatic.
I also still marvel at how Radiohead manage to pull of playing "Idioteque" live. This is basically recorded like a dance track, but it is completely reworked live. The bands timing and musicianship is impeccable. It is possibly my favourite track of all time, and makes a mockery of the time when people lumped them in with lesser bands such as Blur and Oasis, during the Britpop movement.
A couple of new songs were, as expected, aired too, with some fairing better than others. Thom Yorke has stated that a lot of songs are nowhere near finished yet, but they are trying them out live. This was evident in "Videotape" and "All I Need" (from the last Warchild compilation) both of which seemed to pass without leaving much of an impression.
However, both "Nude" and especially "Bodysnatchers" sounded fantastic. The latter building up gradually before erupting into a furious guitar frenzy.
With well over and hour's worth of music played, the band somehow managed not two but three encores, with "There, There" sounding exceptional. I love the sight of both Jonny and Ed O'Brien on additional percussion duites on this track. Meshing
"True Love Waits" with "Everything In Its Right Place" was new and souded pretty excellent too. Again, the band proved how they can transform some of their more electronic influenced tracks with live instrumentation. This would set up the wonderful finale.....
If you have being reading Radiohead fansites recently,then you will know that "Creep" has beeing doing the rounds on the setlists these days. And here, they didn't disappoint us. It was given the biggest cheer of the night and regardless of what the band think of it, it is still one of the bets songs ever written. Thom again showed us why he is the best vocalist around, while my eyes were trained on Jonny just to see him pull off his chainsaw effect with his guitar before each chorus. Even yet, after nearly 12 years, this never fails to get the hairs on the bakc of my neck standing up.
Overall, it was not the best performance I've have ever seen from Radiohead. But then, that is a harsh statement, because they have a lot to live up to, going by the previous occasions. This was still miles better than most gigs I've ever attended. Some of the new songs still need some fine-tuning, but others hold a lot of promise. One thing is for certain, I cannot wait for the next album. However, this performance was a triumph for some of the old favourites, proving just what a strange and wonderful band Radiohead really are.