Concert Reviews

Last Night: Radiohead, Liars

Radiohead, Liars Center May 18, 2008

Better Than: Name something. This was better. Download: Scope the 16 pictures our photographer Michael Insuaste snapped during the show.

Thom Yorke amid the chamber of lights at Sunday's show. (Michael Insuaste)

I don’t really understand how it’s done, how such a feat is accomplished. In about two hours, amidst a set of fluorescent rods and video screens displaying live, on-stage images and flashing colors (the band was actually, in rainbows, if you will), Radiohead proceeded to outdo most bands that ever play live shows.

Prior to the show, the sell-out masses of Center were buzzing with set list info in what may have been the longest line for the men’s room in history. “That guy in the band’s shirt” counts hit a tasteful 6. And even Trading Spaces designer Laurie Hickson-Smith was seen in the first row of seats taking photos with adoring fans and, um, totally eating up the D-list attention.

It was all laid back and in no way indicative of the full-throttle performance our headliners were about to throw at us with a full set and two encores.

Not unlike their last Dallas show at the Music Hall at Fair Park circa OK Computer, Radiohead was really concentrating on their newest born. They offered a mixed set of 2007’s In Rainbows in its entirety, along with selections from every other album but Pablo Honey. The mix between the other releases was near even--but that being said, the truly balls-out moments (for me, at least) came from In Rainbows (“All I Need,” “Nude” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” if I had to pick only three), The Bends’ “The Bends” and OK’s “Paranoid Android” and “Exit Music (for a Film).” Amnesiac’s “Dollars and Cents” kinda, sorta blew my mind as well, in that “I totally forgot about that song” way.

Of course, there were favorites for everyone that didn’t make the set list, but between the mind-blowingly vibrant set and the spot-on performances of every song they did choose, anything left off was well forgotten. Radiohead’s energy seemed just near boiling over and for the most part the audience followed suit---responding in kind to bassist Colin Greenwood’s hamming up his shaker parts on “Reckoner,” playing air drums along with Yorke and Phil Selway during “Bangers and Mash” or channeling Yorke’s inner raver kid during “Idioteque” (my notes actually say “busts a fucking move” for that song, incidentally).

However, if there was one thing I learned at Radiohead last night, it’s that wherever [insert brand name] light beer is sold in keeper cups, no moment of artistic silence, or reverence, rather, can truly be had. No, you take a song like the stunning and delicate “Nude” and wherever there’s a soft moment, a breath, 95-percent of the audience will be transfixed by Thom Yorke’s flawless vocal--but then some ass in that remaining 5 is going to yell “YEAH” or “WOO” or “I’d like to totally break the spell for everyone and make this moment about myself!” Now, if it was just a random hoot or holler, it would be any show, but was overrun (5 percent seemed like a lot) by assholes determined to steal joy, with one going so far as to comment during one of Radiohead’s most dramatic songs. During the encore performance of “Exit Music (For a Film),” Yorke became as irritated as much of the audience, his flow having obviously been shattered by the outburst, and he broke from script to retort to his heckler--“You’re a funny guy. Can you be funny later?” It made the lyric “We hope that you choke” an especially appropriate sentiment.

The band returned for another encore, despite comments in my area that surely they were through after the incident, and even a hypothesis that they wouldn’t be back to Dallas. But Yorke made eyes and goofed at the piano cam during “You and Whose Army?” and the band kicked the ass of a “Paranoid Android.”

Even though I didn’t get a rehash of Tour '97's chilling “Climbing Up the Walls” or awe-inspiring “Let Down,” Radiohead Day 2008 was far from a letdown.

Critic’s Notebook: Personal Bias: I’ve had a 15-year, seven album crush on Thom Yorke. The multi-instrumentalism, the paralyzed eye, the songwriting, the hair. Absolutely.

Random Note: Earplugs are available at Starpl…Smirno… at the medical tent for a buck. It’s one dollar well spent so you’re not the loud talker at the office the next day…and you know, so you don’t ruin your hearing.

By The Way: Liars headline Lola’s tonight. They put on one helluva a show set up in front of Radiohead’s gear, in direct, glaring sunlight and to a milling quarter-full amphitheater. Chances are good the Lola’s show will kick more serious tail. --Merritt Martin

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman