Over the 20 years or so of their existence I have paid scant attention to Radiohead, for reasons I can’t adequately explain or justify.
I must have seen the odd clip here or there, and made snap judgements about pretentiousness and Thom Yorke, and too easily fell in on the side of those who dislike them.
That all started to change as my 17 year old son entered into a war of attrition, convinced that it really is my kind of music and there was no reason why I shouldn’t like them, playing Radiohead in the house shuffling over and over, and slowly but surely resistance and prejudice started to crumble.
But Dad, you like Jason Molina, you like Holy Fuck, how can you not like Radiohead?
It was sitting down together to watch their Glastonbury 2017 headline performance from start to finish, on a big screen, played loud through the hi fi, that finally made the breakthrough.
Everything my son was saying was true, it is my kind of music, and the truth is that had I paid attention earlier I would have got the message sooner. Better late than never ….
So, seeing Radiohead had changed its cancelled Manchester arena shows, in the wake of the recent atrocity, to Old Trafford Cricket Ground, meant an opportunity to buy tickets and get to witness this spectacle and possibly to achieve 100% conversion to the cause.
Whilst by now, I know just about every song through recognition, I don’t know their titles so won’t give a review of the songs, and there is plenty of other sources to obtain such blow by blow reviews.
In 44 years of going out to gigs Radiohead is unlike anything else I have ever seen.
They have elements of everything from funk, EDM, heavy riffs, trance, progish melodies, all driven by an extraordinary rhythm section, and the intensity of Thom Yorke’s vocals.
They are at a stage where they have experimented and rung changes throughout their career and have a diverse back catalogue. Like the most creative bands each change has alienated some yet lead to even more success, and when put together in a 140 minute show, everything fits together like an Incan wall.
The effect on the Manchester crowd (of course that’s the location but people had clearly come from all over the UK and Europe), was like a slowly burning incense stick in a box of 4 July fireworks, a heady aroma gradually permeating all corners before exploding in various and unpredictable directions.
Part of Yorke’s appeal is his punkish presence, a diminutive hobgoblin of a man, who gives off essential attitude, not given to between songs patter, other than the occasional ‘you all right?’, and demonic cackles, it’s all about the music and that is where he holds the audience in the palm of his hands.
His vocal range is extraordinary, unlike others who change up to achieve a falsetto he seamlessly moves around his range, gliding effortlessly to falsetto, and away from delivering oft withering lyrics his banshee wails are always controlled and add an almost instrumental dimension to the virtuoso playing of the other band members.
This old gigger found himself grooving along (which for me mostly involves a bit of swaying and shifting from foot to foot), from first note to last, and there was occasional pockets of moshing at the riffier tunes which my son gleefully managed to work his way towards. The whole experience was worthy of the word outstanding, but other words also spring to mind, joyful and melancholy, exuberant and mesmeric, vibey and trippy, heavy and orchestral, communal and for some intensely personal, and above all unique.
I don’t know quite how many people were in attendance but it must have been well in excess of 30,000 (not shabby for a band that elicits as much hate as love), and all bar me seemed to know the words to every song, emphatically sung along to until well after the floodlights had come up to signal time to go home, the mass refrain of a line from Karma Police carried us away into the night, and indeed I realised that for 140 minutes there I lost myself.
My Radiohead conversion is 100% complete, and not before time.