A progress report
When this tour was first announced, it was billed as an opportunity to hear new material from the forth-coming new album, the follow up to 'Hail To The Thief'. Since then the release date of the next Radiohead record, which was never set in stone anyway, has been put back to the rather vague time of some point in the New Year, maybe!
The fact that if you weren't sitting in front of a computer the minute tickets for this short UK tour went on sale, or were prepared to pay a tout stupid money to get in, shows that whatever Radiohead played, the fans were as eager as ever to be there to see them do it.
The attraction of going to see this band is that you're never quite sure what kind of set you'll get. My previous Radiohead gig was one of the arena dates in 2003, an event which left me a little under whelmed. My lasting memory is of the melancholic part of their set. After tonight's performance (May 18th), I can safely say that Radiohead are once again in my mind, a rock band to be reckoned with.
The general interest level in this tour has been such that set lists from virtually every gig has been published in various sections of the music press almost every day. It's interesting to note how the band have picked a different collection of classics to work around the new material every night. It's a no win situation trying to decide which of your many crowd pleasers to leave out each night, so rather than passing comment on the selection on this occasion, here's some of those that didn't make it for the first of the two Hammersmith shows: 'Fake Plastic Trees', 'High and Dry', 'The Bens', 'Paranoid Android', 'Just', 'No Surprises' and 'Street Spirit' were all somewhere else this time.
Those that benefited from the Radiohead squad rotation system included 'Airbag', 'Lucky', 'My Iron Lung', 'Karma Police', 'There There' and the hugely popular but for me rather dull 'Pyramid Song'.
As far as the promised new stuff is concerned, seven were played this time. If you're yet to hear any of them, if they all appear on the next record we can look forward to a more rock based collection of tracks. It seems that when writing this latest batch of material, ideas from throughout their career have been drawn from rather than focusing on one particular theme, be that electronic, experimental, mellow or any other which the mood might have led them to. The spread of tracks from different records supported this well, with all since 'The Bens' being represented in some way.
The crowd response to the new material was predictably positive, Radiohead are lucky to have one of the most loyal and fanatical fan bases of any band this country has produced. Given that tickets for this weren't cheap this is just as well.
The best way to sum up this night is to say that it seemed like the band were delivering a progress report, while dipping in and out of previous work throughout the two-hour performance. Internet postings from Thom Yorke has suggested that he hasn't been sure about the music he is creating, as the pushing back of the release date proves. Now they've played some of what they're working on to their fans it will be interesting to see how the next record develops. It will be even more intriguing to watch how the setlist unfolds when they headline the V Festival in August. I certainly expect most of the tracks I listed as being left out to return at Chelmsford and Stafford...or will they? You never can tell with Radiohead.
For the record the full setlist ran as follows:
01 'Videotape' (new track)
02 'The National Anthem'
05 '15 Step' (new track)
06 'Morning Bell'
07 'I Might Be Wrong'
09 'How To Disappear Completely'
11 'Karma Police'
12 'House Of Cards' (new track)
13 'Arpeggi' (new track)
14 'My Iron Lung'
16 'Bodysnatchers' (new track)
17 'There There'
18 'Bangers N Mash' (new track)
19 'Pyramid Song'
20 'Let Down'
21 'Planet Telex'
22 'I Want None Of This'
23 'Everything In Its Right Place'