Concert Reviews

Radiohead - American Airlines Center - 3/5/12

Radiohead American Airlines Center Monday, March 5

Around 9:30 last night, the sold-out American Airlines Center was singing along to the climactic roar of Radiohead's 2003 single "There There":

We are accidents / waiting to happen

Here's the question: Who is Radiohead? Are they rock music's most consistent critic of blind consumerism, or simply one of the biggest bands in the world? In the jammed arena last night, it was a strange dichotomy (plus, plenty of domestic beer!). Over at our sister paper Houston Press, critic Chris Gray began his spot-on review from the Toyota Center by saying "Radiohead just doesn't add up."

Honestly, I didn't give a shit. Because Radiohead is really, really good at it.

In their current live form (with some support from Portishead's Clive Deamer), Radiohead is a wildly expert and percussive experience. It was nearly unhinged -- at one point Thom Yorke's voice unspooled in reverse -- and completely rehearsed at the same time. Flat-screen TVs ascended and descended like moving ceiling tiles around the band, while behind them fiery lights flickered. Meanwhile, Thom Yorke, who looked a little like a holistic medicine guru with his tiny gray vest, red pants and ponytail, was both coy entertainer and dance shaman. (Side note: Thom Yorke has T-Rex arms.)

There was the blue-washed "Weird Fishes / Arpeggi" from In Rainbows; the spiderweb of keyboard and guitar on "The Gloaming," from Hail to the Thief; the thunderous "There There." They alternated the big tracks like OK Computer's "Karma Police" with deeper, drum-heavy cuts (everyone in the band played percussion at some point) and pulsing pieces from their recent album, King of Limbs.

So, there we were in the middle of the American Airlines Center, a bunch of sardines singing under the green-soaked lights while Thom Yorke flew to Kid A's "Idioteque": "I laugh until my head comes off / women and children first." Did we care? It was too much fun. Too ... scintillating.

Near the end of the show, someone threw up a handful of glow sticks from their seats, a couple in front of me kissed for a while and cell phones went up to film, shoot or Tweet. It was another great show from one of the world's most precisely good bands, even if the band lost themselves for a minute there.

Just for a minute.

Update 11:52 a.m.: Thanks to commenter OldManJam, who posted the full setlist in the comments below.

Personal bias: I was instantly in a happier place than the last time I saw Radiohead at Lollapalooza in 2008. That show was so viciously crowded I was physically fused, Human Centipede-style, to a sweaty, hairy man in front of me [shudders].

Also: Openers Other Lives, who played a prompt 30-minute set, were damn great. They were an exciting blend of drone-y, syrupy British influences and Arcade Fire-like trumpets and accordions. They also had an instrument orgy on stage: There were box accordions, violins, cellos. I think a kazoo might have shown itself.

Overheard: One very excited Radiohead fan said, in surprise, to another fan's not-so-explosive excitement: "You've gotta be fist-fucking me right now."