No rainbows but plenty of rain.
It was interesting to read after the weekend had died down that Richard Ashcroft had been moaning about who it was that had selected them to headline the Glastonbury festival. The moaning front man had a pop at Michael Eavis who he suggested would rather had Keane topping the bill than the reformed money chasing guys from Wigan. Given the amount of moans that the middle class have had about Jay-Z headlining on the Saturday, the debate over who has topped the bill at Glasto has threatened to overshadow the weekend.
Which is good and here is a bit more to add to it all. Whoever was responsible for not offering Radiohead a headline slot needs to have a very hard look at themselves. Thankfully for the people of Glasgow, Radiohead rolled into town on the Friday night and played a startling and immensely enjoyable set that overcame the rain and grumbles about pricing, lack of worthwhile support, the bar running out of lager at one point and anything else that could be blamed on a band!
No matter what Radiohead do from now, they will be permanently caught in the mix between fans of the old music and fans of the new. There isn’t that much between the two and its not as if its an unbreachable distance but the roars for the intro to songs like ‘No Surprises’ or ‘Just’ dwarfed the welcome that was afforded to tracks like ‘All I Need.’
So what of the material from ‘In Rainbows’, does it live up to its price tag in the live arena? It may have been available for a few pennies but it’s the equivalent of signing a Bosman player and then seeing him score the winner in a cup semi-final. The priceless element of the transaction could be used in a couple of ways in this instance. It may lack the choruses that the casual fans, the bams and the plebus wanted to bellow out all night but the new material has energy and jaggedness that creates a higher level of excitement to the gig. Something like ‘Bangers + Mash’ from the bonus disc of ‘In Rainbows’ may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s the perfect counterbalance to some of the earlier songs. It edgy, it is in peoples face from the first minute and has an amazing bass line that is impossible to ignore. In other words, a fairly cutting edge and exciting song that if it was released by any new band without the history of Radiohead would be viewed as one of the best modern tracks around.
Theres no doubt that Radiohead seemed a bit tired in places, Thom Yorke has already said how much the London shows took out of them but its not as if Radiohead are a band you go to watch for stage banter and interaction. There was a slight jibe about the weather and how it would be better for the crowd to move down south but this act of pantomime banter was met with the expected boos and the show continued. People will say that Radiohead lack a sense of humour but again, it’s just that they don’t share the same sense of humour that the majority of people like.
They may not have played all the hits that people would have wanted but in ‘Karma Police’ have a genuine classic, a song that is capable of uniting an entire field of sodden people. The “phew for a minute there, I lost myself” section brought the loudest crowd interaction moment of the night and should be enough to silence any critics of the band. Perhaps because they now play by their own rules and don’t bother the upper reaches of the singles chart anymore, there is a rush to denounce Radiohead as being finished or lacking when compared to other bands. Blander bands who used the earlier Radiohead blueprint to plot their own success may be capable of playing at Wembley for 2 days in a row but they really don’t compare. In the final two minutes of ‘Karma Police’, Radiohead probably pack in more emotion and uplifting beauty than some stadium bands have managed in their career. And even if you don’t agree with that, it’s pretty hard to deny how cool the song sounds!
The new material worked brilliantly and the different elements of the stage show brought it all together. There was nothing overly flashy about the lights or the sound but they both worked extremely well and fulfilled every need you could want. Some folk may say that the Muse live show blows Radiohead out of the water due to the bombastic nature of the lights and mega presence but there is also a saying fur coat and no knickers that Muse fans would be worth acquainting themselves with. For the price, people may have expected more of a “show” but hey, you had the chance to get the album for free, its swings and roundabouts.
Radiohead have put themselves in an unenviable position of having to please three sets of fans. Those who like the old material, those who like the new material and those who like both in an almost Venn diagram like crossover of the audience. Those who liked both eras were suitably chuffed at the end of the night with those who like only the one style still having more than enough to be content with. It was another great night from one of the greatest bands we’ve been lucky to have in recent times.