Review: Radiohead @ The o2 Arena, London

'Radiohead are determined to never look back'

Robin Card - 10 October 2012

Radiohead have long been unconventional – paradoxical almost – in their approach to the relatively straightforward business of creating, distributing and performing music. One of their most celebrated singles and promo videos is for a song entitled 'No Surprises' but these days, surprises are all that can be expected.
 
Major announcements are frequently made out of the blue on the band's website and disseminated across the internet by their loving fan-base. One such unheralded declaration was the stadium tour they are currently embarking on – their first in four years. Ostensibly in support of their most recent album 'King of Limbs', the tour is unusual in that it's taking place more than a year after the record's release. Tonight they are playing in the unremarkable environs of the O2 Arena, perhaps not the most suitable venue but sometimes being orthodox is the most perverse thing Radiohead can do.
 
The band wordlessly creep onto stage before launching into 'Lotus Flower'. Thom Yorke is sporting an ill-advised ponytail and there are a dozen TV screens suspended above the stage that show close ups of the band member's faces and instruments. The backdrop is a colossal monochromatic screen that shifts colour for each song, in this case a claustrophobic yellow hue.
 
Radiohead have recently bolstered their ranks with former Portishead drummer Clive Deamer and, along with original sticksman Phil Selway, the depth of the percussion is breathtaking. None more so than on 'Bloom' where Johnny Greenwood joins in and the trio beat out brain-twisting rhythms in unison.
 
“Shout just to make sure we know you're there,” jokes Thom. “So you're not all cardboard cut-outs, thank God for that,” he adds after a sufficiently enthusiastic response. He's not done with the laughs there though, as he introduces new piano-based song 'The Daily Mail' and chuckles away to himself after describing the rag as “a quality newspaper”.


'Myxomatosis' showcases more of Thom's talents as he dances like he has just gotten out of the shower and forgotten to bring a towel. A rare outing of 'Climbing Up The Walls' follows and it's just incredible. Samples of speech enhance the intro and the bass vibrates this cavernous arena. Just when it appears to be less sinister than the recorded version, the lighting turns a murderous red and there erupts a fearsome wall of noise.
 
After this assault, a wondrous stripped-down piano interpretation of 'Like Spinning Plates' soothes the crowd's nerves. 'Nude' then elicits the biggest ovation of the night, with the background colour scheme reminiscent of a badly-restored fresco of Jesus.
 
'Karma Police' is for many the stand-out track of the night, enticing a huge sing-along for what turns out to be the only occasion. The first act is concluded with the contorted beats of 'Idiotheque' and the band take a short breather.


They return with a magnificent 'Pyramid Song' and new track 'Staircase', moving into 'In Rainbows' highlight 'Reckoner' before exiting the stage once more, leaving the audience frenetic for more. They duly return and close out with 'There There' and a shortened cover of R.E.M.'s 'The One I Love', seguing perfectly into a final triumphant 'Everything In Its Right Place', the band waving politely as they exit the stage one by one.
 
The heavy bias towards 'King of Limbs' and lack of any tracks from 'The Bends' will infuriate some, but Radiohead have always been forward-thinking in their approach. They have evolved far past the angsty guitar-driven songs of yore and are determined to never look back. Nobody, perhaps not even the band knows what to expect after this phase of their development, but it's always interesting finding out.

Radiohead, o2 Arena, London - Setlist - Monday 8th October:

Lotus Flower
15 Step
Bloom
Kid A
The Daily Mail
Myxomatosis
Climbing Up the Walls
The Gloaming
Separator
These Are My Twisted Words
Like Spinning Plates
Nude
Identikit
Karma Police
Feral
Idioteque

Pyramid Song
Staircase
Morning Mr. Magpie
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Reckoner

Give Up the Ghost
There There
Everything In Its Right Place


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