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Radiohead made their first Seattle area concert appearance in half a decade this past Wednesday night at Auburn’s White River Amphitheatre. As anyone who has ever attended a concert there already knows, the process of getting in and out can be a logistical nightmare even on a good night.
White River is a beautiful outdoor concert facility -- acoustically marvelous, and nestled just underneath the backdrop of the Cascade mountain range. It unfortunately also requires a drive to and from along several miles of two lane country highway. It’s a difficult ride for 20,000 people traveling mostly by car, and on this particular night the rather ominous looking Seattle clouds that hung overhead threatened to open up a torrent of rain and further complicate things throughout the drive.
The good news on this night is that Radiohead clearly came to play, and did just that, with a spectacular two hour set that went heavy on the band’s latest album In Rainbows, but also drew generously from their entire catalog.
Just before going on, a massive array of long rectangular tubes were moved into place, revealing the source of what would prove to be a dazzling, and non-stop display of spectacular lighting effects throughout the show. The lighting compliment was completed by a rectangular screen behind the band which divided into five equal squares, displaying each musician on an equal platform.
Taking the stage to a nice one-two punch of “15 Step,” and “Reckoner” from In Rainbows, the band sounded tight as a drum and just as energized. From there, they segued into Kid A’s “Optimistic,” whose title could have easily reflected the crowd’s own hopes for no rain, as the overhead storm clouds continued to threaten. Then the surprises began.
Following the three-drum percussive attack of “There There,” came the rarely played “Pyramid Song” and the even rarer “Talk Show Host,” both of which are highlighted by Thom Yorke’s eerily haunting, yet equally serene sounding falsetto voice. Although Yorke is often recognized more for his goofy look – he’s kind of a punkier looking Clay Aiken with a noticeably lazy eye – he also has one of rock’s most distinctive voices.
This was followed by the throbbing bass intro of “National Anthem,” where the spectacular tube lighting effects were nearly overshadowed by the electronics propelled wizardry of guitarist Jonny Greenwood.
When Greenwood and Yorke strapped on acoustic guitars for In Rainbows’ “Faust Arp,” they botched the song not just once, but twice – which led to an impromptu cover of Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why” and some unintended humor, before they finally got through it with success. Later highlights included “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and the jazzy bass line and grating guitar technics of “Dollars And Cents.”
It was at about this time that I noticed this guy standing (actually make that bobbing and weaving) next to me, who for the next several songs kept insisting the next song would be “Paranoid Android.” As the main set came to a close, there was a commotion next to me, and when I turned, I saw this same guy being dragged out by security (he was unable to walk). The good news I guess is that “Paranoid Android” never did get played, so at least he didn’t miss it.
The first of two encores brought more rarities, including a beautifully rendered “Street Spirit” and “In Limbo,” where Radiohead were joined on tambourine by their producer Nigel Goodrich. The second encore brought “You And Whose Army,” which Yorke dedicated to Seattle’s WTO protests from nearly a decade earlier. Radiohead closed out the show with a slightly more percussively driven version of the otherwise pastoral sounding “Everything In Its Right Place.”
For the record, those clouds finally did open up too, dumping buckets of rain just in time for the drive home. It was a soggy ending to an otherwise spectacular two hour show from one of rock’s greatest, and most consistently interesting and challenging bands.
"All I Need"
"Talk Show Host"
"Faust Arp/Tell Me Why (Neil Young)"
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
"Climbing Up The Walls"
"Dollars and Cents"
"How To Disappear Completely"
"You and Whose Army"
"Everything in Its Right Place"
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