“Hi, I’m Lady Gaga,” coyly smiles Thom Yorke to the rapture of Manchester. While you’re never likely to see the Radiohead frontman in a meat dress or straddling a motorcycle onstage, Oxford’s finest have exactly what they need to please an arena crowd.
You’ll often hear grumblings that Radiohead shun their greatest hits and that you’ll spend more time stroking your chin than moving your feet. To these naysayers I say: “shut up – you don’t know you’re talking about.”
When tickets are in the £60 range, you’d assume that the only people here are those who know exactly what to expect. This show is off the back of ‘The King Of Limbs’ album. ‘Born To Run’ it is not, and the skittery trip-hop of ‘Separator’ would not sit comfortably alongside guitar heavy testosterone anthems like ‘Creep’ and Anyone Can Play Guitar’.
And you know what – it really doesn’t matter. With this many people enthralled, how could anyone call this ‘self-indulgent’?
They still punctuate their set with fan favorites and classics. Opening with the menacing and rumbling rhythms of ‘Lotus Flower’, Manchester is hypnotized before an explosive outing of the seminal ‘Airbag’ sees the M.E.N. erupt.
Underrated ‘Hail To The Thief’ gems ‘Myxomatosis’ and ‘The Gloaming’ sound surprisingly epic, and while TKoL tracks may sound tight and claustrophobic on record, when performed live they make a lot more sense with space to breathe.
Only Radiohead could get away this. It’s 45 minutes before they air a single – and it’s ‘Pyramid Song’! Which, while it raises your heart to the back of your throat, would hardly be considered radio-friendly arena sing-along material. Either way, every moment feels essential.
The band end their first set with the ever-brilliant ‘Paranoid Android’ before returning for three encores. It’s the eve of Thom turning 44, so the crowd serenades him with Happy Birthday. Middle age has clearly only brought wisdom to the band. As they experiment with new tack ‘Full Stop’ before tearing through ‘Planet Telex’ and ‘Idioteque’, it’s clear that there’s still so much life left in them yet.
So no. There will be no spaceships, choreography or greatest hits. Radiohead don’t need to rely on gimmicks or hit singles as a crutch. Radiohead are still evolving. Radiohead still matter.
Below: Radiohead, King Of Limbs tour live