Radiohead started quickly, opening their set as they had for much of their Australian tour with Lotus Flower and Bloom, this time with Airbag tossed in-between to mix things up. All three songs came off well, capitalising on the crowd’s excitement and setting a good tone for the evening.
These two tracks were rapidly eclipsed though by the energy Yorke brought to Staircase and Myxamotosis, a one-two hit that saw him whirling around the stage in his unique dance style and which proved to all and sundry that there could be no doubt as to how their post-90s catalogue had been received by fans.
With a set predominantly built around their In Rainbows and King of Limbs output, this was a set designed for true fans of the group. It was also clear that this emphasis was also designed for the band members themselves. Obviously enjoying themselves more when playing their newer material, their newer sound gave each band member the scope to explore the music in their own way, particularly guitarist Ed O’Brien, at one point dancing on his own at the back of the stage, bassist Colin Greenwood grooving on his own with a drummer on either side and original drummer Phil Selway losing himself to the music either with his eyes closed or staring intently at second drummer Clive Deamer (Portishead.)
That’s not to say there weren’t classics thrown in: Paranoid Android, Airbag, Climbing Up The Walls and Karma Police were all there from OK Computer to provide some balance and keep the older fans happy, but it was clear from the energy and the enthusiasm of each band member where their passion now lies. Most importantly though, whether it was from OK Computer, King of Limbs, or anything inbetween each song had the crowd enthralled and by the end of the set, the vast majority of the fans, even those seated were up on their feet and doing their best impersonation of Yorke’s inimitable dance moves.
Supplementing their impressive sound on this tour has been their spectacular use of lighting. 16 large panel scenes which showed video of each band member or their instrument were suspended from the roof and rotated to various positions throughout the show. Most effective during Myxamotosis where the green tinge used brought an added otherworldly vibe to the pulsating beat and during 15 Steps were the panels were positioned into a dangerously low ceiling of white light above the group to produce an artificially sterile club in which the now 6 members of Radiohead’s touring party could strut their stuff.
Drawing the largest cheer of the night was Reckoner, which provided the perfect vehicle for the group’s newly found groove. Pushed forward by their new supplementary tour drummer, Deamer, Radiohead have a renewed energy on stage and a remarkable synchronicity. Further supported by Jonny Greenwood, brother of Colin, whose jack-of-all-trades talents see him support the group on everything from guitar to drums, piano and looping software to further enhance the complexity of their live sound. It is a truly impressive sight to see the group work together to recreate the depth and intricacy of their latest album live and only serves of a reminder as to what bands can achieve live when they can be bothered.
I never thought I would begrudge people for singing at a show, being quite a fan of belting out the lyrics in the middle of a crowd myself. However, this was one moment where I did silently resent a few of my more vocal neighbours and where I began to truly understand what The Beatles meant when they said that performing live was a waste of time because they couldn’t even hear themselves. There were a few moments, particularly during Karma Police where Yorke’s distinctive wail was overwhelmed and often impossible to hear over the crowd’s (largely-off key) singing. Yorke himself seemed very aware of this unfortunate phenomenon and if you focused on his voice, you could hear what appeared to be his own private protest about the ludicrousness of the situation, as he warped the chorus’ melody into unrecognisable clashes that would have had many punters scratching their heads if only they could hear him. Possessing one of the most unique and inimitable voices in rock music should afford Yorke an exclusion from having people try to sing over him-either that or they should have his mike cranked up enough that no amount of drunken warbling will be able to drown him out-however, that is not the point Yorke is making and all it means is that the true fans have an extra level of appreciation than those who just went to the gig hoping that it was actually a Radiohead Karaoke show.
Radiohead are consummate professionals and they are very comfortable in their own skins. These two facts were clearly obvious throughout their set that kept an incredibly full Rod Laver Arena transfixed for two and a half hours. Time has not dulled the talent or passion of any member of this most respected of bands and neither has it dulled the passion of their fans. This was truly a show to remember and one that will be hard to top as the best live show of 2012.