i was there: radiohead at the verizon center (guest post)

5 Jun

You all are in for a treat this week. This week, instead of reading my same old stuff, you get to read the thoughts and ideas of some special guest contributors. First up, a review of Radiohead at the Verizon Center this past Sunday, written by a friend with whom I attended the show. Enjoy!

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Guest contributor: Sean F. Dugan

I came across Radiohead late. It was 2008, one year after In Rainbows had been released, and most of you had spent years feasting on their work. I, on the other hand, had yet to listen to OK Computer. I hadn’t even heard of The Bends.

This all changed after a night of heavy drinking during the summer before my senior year in college, whenI awoke to the usual sounds coming from my alarm clock. I had to be at work in less than an hour, I still felt drunk, and I was going to Lollapalooza that night. Yet for some reason, my roommate was standing over me in my room with his iPod in hand.

“You should take this into work today,” he said.

I asked why.

“Because you’re going to see Radiohead tonight. You should probably get familiar.”

And so I did. I was half asleep on the bus to work (that’s the 147 for you Chicago folk), I turned on OK Computer, laid my head against the window, and closed my eyes. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was listening to them just 10 hours before I was set to see them that night, and I wasn’t in the mindset to have a musical epiphany.

But then, an airbag saved my life.

The distorted and almost nauseating guitar rhythms, intricately woven together into a harmonious barrage of sound and brought to greater heights by Thom Yorke’s vocals, immediately grabbed my attention; four years later, they still haven’t let go. Fast forward to June 2012, and there I was seeing Radiohead at the Verizon Center. “Airbag” was the second song in their incredible set last night, and it sounded as fresh and new as it did that morning on the bus – back when the song was already 11 years old.

It’s difficult to convey just how much Radiohead took over my life after I saw them for the first time at Lollapalooza. I must have listened to every album at least thirty times since then, and some maybe double that. They are the only band I can jot down a set list for at a show without even thinking. They are, perhaps too often, the standard by which I compare other bands’ musical talent. They will forever remain the band that moved my musical interests away from classical and classic rock toward genres I never knew existed or thought I would like. Forgive my hyperbole, but I believe them to be the greatest working band alive.

Radiohead proved my hyperbole correct yet again last night in Washington, D.C. During this 2012 tour, almost every set has started with “Bloom,” just as every set of their 2008 tour started with “15 Step,” which rang loud in last night’s first encore. Like “15 Step” for In Rainbows, “Bloom” is the first song off 2011’s The King of Limbs, and the live rendition of it is extraordinary– especially with the extended harmony sections between the song’s two parts. Even at 43, Yorke’s vocal range is incredibly impressive. The distinctness of his tenor voice and beautiful use of falsetto hasn’t changed much in his 20 years of touring. The indoor arena was a marvelous setting in which to be enchanted, and at times haunted, by his voice as it echoed through the Verizon Center.

Of the 23 songs played last night, seven were from The King of Limbs, and the rest of the show came primarily from In Rainbows, Hail To The Thief and Kid A. Needless to say, when “The National Anthem” came blasting through the towering speakers halfway through, the crowd was surging.

The first encore brought us “Paranoid Android,” which, along with “Airbag,” were the oldest songs they performed last night. But for me, the biggest surprise of the evening was “You And Whose Army?” Perhaps the most fun song on Amnesiac, this took the audience by storm, and you could truly feel the band’s excitement as they played it.

When they came back out for the second encore, I knew it would be the last. But before taking their final bow, they left us with “Reckoner,” my favorite track off In Rainbows.

See, one of Yorke’s strengths as a lyricist is that he can truly jar a listener; he leaves you feeling a little strange and pondering the mind (and mental state) of the writer. Is Thom Yorke insane? What does he mean when he says “Cut the kids in half” on “Morning Bell”? Yorke very well may be at a perpetual distance from us, but in the last lines of “Reckoner,” and also in the final lyrics of the concert, we see Yorke reaching out to all of us when he says, “Dedicated to all of you, all human beings.”

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One Response to “i was there: radiohead at the verizon center (guest post)”

  1. Karrie thecat June 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    it was the most amazing show i have ever seen radiohead has changed the ideas of music…byebyebeatles..your time here has finally been laid to rest…

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