Arena rock, but not as we know itMusic
Thom Yorke of Radiohead plays for fans at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 9, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Radiohead, Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Rarely has a show been as anticipated as last night's Radiohead gig.
The last time the band toured the country was eight years ago, they were last in Brisbane 14 years ago. They've recorded five albums since then. That gig was in the long-since-demolished Festival Hall.
Thom York of Radiohead on stage at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre Nov. 9, 2012. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
That might go some way to explaining how last night's Brisbane Entertainment Centre crowd flitted between awed silence and relatively reserved gratitude despite the band delivering an intense onslaught of precision electro-rock, every bit as tight and powerful as you would expect from a group who have developed a sonic arsenal without peer.
This was arena rock, but not as we know it.
This was a night of awed reverence not collective release.
Radiohead plays for fans at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 9, 2012. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
How else do you explain an era-defining song such as Paranoid Android being delivered with convincing gusto (considering how often the band must have played it) without Thom Yorke's vocals being drowned out by an eager crowd singalong?
Yorke and his cohorts command that kind of respect. They play with the kind of intensity more common in a (relatively) intimate concert hall than a 12,000 seat basketball court and their fans comply.
Focusing on material from their last two records, their set is breathtakingly tight, songs like Myxomatosis and The National Anthem bristle with even more manic energy than on record.
Their stage presence is understated but transfixing
Jonny Greenwood works his corner of the stage head-down like a mad tinkerer.
While Thom Yorke skulks the edge of the platform as if he is having the most pleasurable of anxiety attacks, hair tied back in a pony tail, arms stretched out like he is swimming through quicksand. His hair may be up but in another respect he is letting it down, stopping The Daily Mail early to pull an audience member up on a rare interjection and seemingly teasing the security for passing out water "it looks like they're handing out vodka in the front!" before making the briefest of political statements "Free Tibet. They're just up the road. Free Tibet."
There are numerous highlights.
The simplicity of You and Whose Army? stands out among the thunderous duel-drummed attack of the King of Limbs material, the delicate piano beautifully juxtaposed with Yorke's ironically goading lyric as the band work themselves up to a glam rock climax.
After an opening take of Lotus Flower the exotic David Byrne rumble of Bloom excites, before the cushioning blow of Airbag is greeted with a timid roar of recognition.
In the first encore the menacing beauty of Pyramid Song follows the hymnal Give up The Ghost before the lone Bends track, Street Spirit, arrives. It's the only song from the sophomore album which you could imagine fitting with how the band's sound has developed but it still provides a nostalgic presence.
Throughout the show a carefully choreographed collection of 12 square screens are suspended above the band. They shift position for each song, delivering glimpses of the band through obscuring colours and shapes while providing an unobtrusive accompaniment to the on stage action. It's a feature much more dignified and preferable to a stadium-sized jumbotron. And just another example of how atypical such a show is in this venue.
For the final encore the screens hover low over the band, a blue light creating the feel of a garage rehearsal as the band segue into the seductive hip hop attack of 15 Step.
Yorke finally lets loose of all restraint as the band works through a triumphant Everything in its Right Place into the closer Idioteque, the front man breaking out his best Iggy Pop hop-and-skip as he spits bile at the crowd through the song's angry rap, pulling out all the stops.
Only then, with the wheels spinning off the well-oiled machine, does the crowd truly respond with reckless abandon. The band abandons the stage in turn, peaking at just the right moment. Now that's arena rock.