Where: First Midwest Bank Amphitheater
When: June 10th, 2012
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.
It's become a well-known fact that Radiohead has, over time, become one of the biggest rock bands of our time — if you can even consider them as such anymore. The olden days of the guitar-oriented Pablo Honey, The Bends, and even a little of OK Computer are all but a faint memory, and there's no better evidence of that than Radiohead's live show. While I am an old school Radiohead follower, their excursions into free-jazz, krautrock, and just plain weirdness have finally started making sense to me after seeing them at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater on June 10th. They're still weird (listen to "High and Dry" and then something newer like "Bloom" and try to tell me otherwise), but this is obviously a band whose weirdness shines brightest onstage.
So, I cheated a little prior to the show. The suspense got the best of me about what their setlist might look like, and it took very little digging and prodding around on the interweb to find out what eras they'd be touching in their show. In other words, I knew this would be a show dominated by The King of Limbs material (in fact, this particular Chicago show was treated to the whole album). As much as this should've been a slight disappointment to me since the album didn't blow my mind like their previous efforts, I was actually excited to hear the newer material in a live setting. Experiencing those lightning-quick drum fills (courtesy of two drummers), Jonny Greenwood's ability to bend and break sound to his will, and Thom Yorke's "voice as an instrument" mentality along with his wicked steps (this guy can groove with the best of them) really helped shed a much needed light of understanding on the new stuff...
But it was the old stuff that really got the crowd going. When Radiohead tore into the instantly recognizable beat of "There, There" early on in the set, that's all it took to get our heads bobbing. Of course, we all grooved along to stuff like "Morning Mr. Magpie," "Lotus Flower," and one of my personal newer favorites, "Staircase," but when we were treated to deep cuts like "Kid A" and "The Gloaming," that's when the crowd really erupted. The band is such a tightly-knit unit that it was almost impossible to pick out any inconsistencies or screw-ups in their performance. Sure, Yorke's voice can have a few low moments, but his charisma and energy make up for any vocal shortcomings he may have throughout their show.
One thing certainly worth mentioning is that Radiohead chose this particular Chi-town date to debut a new song, titled "Full Stop," which sounds inherently like A King of Limbs outtake. And that's not a bad thing, or at least now I can say so since I "get" the newer material better now. For anyone who has a hard time appreciating the new era of Radiohead like I did, just go see them live and hear the new stuff in that setting. Only then does it really make sense.
This was a show that was a long time coming for me. I've patiently waited to see Radiohead since I was about 12 years old (I'm about to be 28), and the only way it could've been any better is if I'd heard The Bends and OK Computer live in their entirety. But since that's not likely anytime soon, I'll definitely settle for this. Besides, we did get to hear "Everything in Its Right Place," "Karma Police," and a blistering version of "Idioteque" — but even better was the return of the first Radiohead song I ever heard, "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." This song hasn't made their setlist in a few months and closed out the show in the most epic and fitting way. As I left the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, I felt like I'd just witnessed a little piece of history — not because of the setlist, but because I'd seen one of the most talented, innovative, and legendary bands of our time... and yes, they lived up to that reputation and then some.