Thursday, August 21, 2008

you'll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking: great Seattle odyssey - Radiohead day

I know what everybody is wondering - what did Thom wear?

You will no doubt be thrilled to discover that Thom wore the strange red pants that I have previously scoffed at, thereby effectively thumbing his nose at my impeccable fashion sense, but I believe that this earth-shattering event was eclipsed by Jonny's apparent
semi-beardedness. My world may never be the same again. I have been within hollering distance of Radiohead, separated only by 20,000 adoring fans.

There were of course other events that took place yesterday, including a really fascinating historical tour of the underground in Seattle's Pioneer Square, but I'm asking for your indulgence to tell you about that another day. Today we gush.

It was with a mixture of giddy anticipation and nervousness that we headed out three hours before concert time. We hadn't driven in a couple of days, hadn't driven through Seattle in rush hour ever and had conflicting directions (from the same site) on getting to the concert venue, located 30 miles south of Seattle. I needn't have worried, the combination of the Spousal Unit's Formula One sensibilities and my compulsive navigating got us through some horrendous I-5 traffic and to the White River Amphitheatre with enough time left to stop at the Pizza Hut in Auburn to wolf down a personal pan. You know you are on a proper road trip
when you eat supper in a takeout only restaurant.

It had been raining heavily the entire 1.5 hour trip, but as we waited for our pizza, the rain
stopped and a strong rainbow appeared in the sky. We all know by now that Radiohead have the power to control the weather; I took this rainbow as a promise for a sublime night.

We arrived at the massive White River Amphitheatre, parked in prearranged premier parking - a move that would later prove to be an incredibly well-spent $20 - and scooped up a couple of beautifully cryptic and unbelievably soft concert tees (a dirty mind and a blink) which are made from recycled plastic water bottles and organic cotton, and a mitt-full of aluminum
water bottles.

The stage looked a long way away from our second last row seats, but we didn't care. I've seen enough photos from the tour to know that there would be some pretty astounding multi-angle footage projected onto the side screens for me to get my fill of closeups of finger work and facial expressions.

Liars opened right on time and did a pleasing job with their experimental and drum-heavy set.

And then, with background music that sounded like maybe Underworld providing a soundtrack
to growing tension and anticipation, the sold out venue began to fill. As night came on, ropes of the now famous LED lights were swung into place, imparting upon the stage a decidedly digital atmosphere, befitting a Radiohead concert. The lights proved to be even more impressive and evocative in setting the atmosphere than I could ever have imagined. Throughout the night, these lights would take on a life of their own, punctuating blasts of guitar with brilliant shards of light, mutating colours to transform the mood onstage. They were like a sixth Radiohead member up there, and all the more impressive through the knowledge that this mind-bending light show was wrought with low wattage environmentally sound LEDs.

And then, after an eternity and a couple of false starts of roars from the crowd, the moment happened. Radiohead was standing before us. And without any preliminaries, Thom and Ed and Colin and Phil and Jonny launched into 15 Step. 20,000 people rose as one and cheered madly, and we remained standing the entire two hours, dancing, and clapping and singing and cheering.

For two solid hours, the members of Radiohead played with all their might, thrilling us with songs like:

15 Step (the RO and I did the YAY! part under our breaths and I swear I heard some others join in)
There There (making my life complete)
All I Need
Pyramid Song
Talk Show Host (having listened to this incessantly the last week, this thrilled me greatly)
The National Anthem (which I always think of as Colin's song because of the awesome baseline)
The Gloaming

Lucky (which had us all singing "it's going to be a glo-ooo-oorious day")
Faust Arp (which had the audience roaring when Thom kept forgetting the words and then, to add insult to injury, also flubbed the words to the Neil Young song that he and Jonny started playing in between takes, finally culminating with a well-said "fuck it!")
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Climbing Up The Walls
Dollars and Cents

Until this point, the banter had been fairly none existent, with the band concentrating on blasting out song after song. There were a few exceptions, a "thanks for having us" and a "hi", which drew an enthusiastic hi! back from the crowd, the self-directed fuck it at the ill-fated attempt at Faust Arp, and a moment that made many a heart melt, Thom responding to a declaration from the audience with an "I love you too, darling".

This all changed with the encores. Thom began to take time between songs to address the audience, introducing Nigel Godrich ("this is Nigel. He makes our records.") who then proceeded to play tambourine (very capably too) on In Limbo. Yes, they played In Limbo.

The first encore was noteworthy for me, in that it finally provided the moment I had been longing for all night. The dancing. After some pretty enticing head bobbing and weaving all evening, with some provocative arm movements on a couple of occasions, Thom finally broke loose and laid down some pretty sweet funky moves on Idioteque, as I had prayed he would. Not even Thom can resist the siren's lure of that song. It was utterly glorious and now I can die happy.

First encore:
How to Disappear Completely
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Idioteque (my moment of heaven)
In Limbo (featuring Nigel Godrich on tambourine)
Street Spirit (so incredible to hear Thom's soaring vocals on this)

During the second encore, the rain which had been flirting and threatening for the past half hour, finally began in earnest. enough so that, despite the cover over our heads, we were starting to feel the rain blowing in from the back. At this point, Thom asked for the lights to be put on the people on the lawn - the uncovered area at the very back. As the spotlights lit up the lawn area, we could see that it was packed with people standing in the driving rain with no intention of going anywhere. They deserved the applause they received.

Notably though, the second encore started with a dedication from Thom to what he referred to as his favourite thing about Seattle - the people who had demonstrated against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999. Calling the WTO a criminal organization, Thom elicited a huge response from the crowd, as he stood in front of the Tibetan flag-draped equipment that was prominently displayed at the front of the stage. One of the beautiful things about a band like Radiohead is that not only are they the saviours of modern rock, but they approach life with the same dedication and perfectionism that they approach their music. They expect nothing less than the best and the most honourable from themselves and from the rest of the world.

Radiohead's performance of You and Whose Amy? which kicked off the second encore was made all the more biting and filled with cynical pathos by the single grainy closeup of the camera on Thom's eye for the duration of the song, pulling back at the opportune time to reveal a most splendid waggling of the eyebrows. Instant classic, that.

Second Encore:
You And Whose Army? (dedicated to those who protested against the WTO in Seattle)
No Surprises
Everything In Its Right Place

With the music of Everything In Its Right Place still crackling and vibrating, and the light show dissolving into a cryptic but vaguely familiar pattern, Phil and Ed and Colin and Jonny and Thom left the stage for the final time, leaving us clapping with arms upstretched in the rain. I called out my feeble "I miss you already" to my heroes, the most important band in the world, and we shuffled out into the pelting rain.

epilogue - We arrived back in Seattle around 1:00 am, having splurged on premier parking which allowed our lot to exit the venue ahead of the others. A woman who spotted me in my Radiohead shirt downtown today told me that it took her 2 hours to leave the parking lot and they arrived home after 3:00.


Stephanie said...

I did not get premier parking for the event, and parked in a general parking area (huge!). We ran to the car as the lights faded, peeled out of there, and were on the road in about 20 minutes, getting back to the hotel at about 12:30, including a stop at 7-11 for snacks.

That show was awesome! Vancouver was also spectacular. I decided to forgo the standing in Vancouver and went and got one of the limited bleacher seats, which were still really close, then I was in the pit, 6th row in Seattle. I think to fully appreciate the lights you need to be back a little more. Still amazing from right underneath them though.

Stephanie said...

Oh and the set list for Vancouver:

15 Step, There There, Morning Bell, All I Need, Where I End and You Begin, Talk Show Host, Nude, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The National Anthem, Bangers and Mash, Faust Arp, Videotape, Karma Police, Jigsaw Falling into Place, Just, Exit Music for a Film, Bodysnatchers

Encore 1: House of Cards, Optimistic, You and Whose Army?, Planet Telex, Everything in it's Right Place

Encore 2: Reckoner, 2+2=5, Paranoid Android

They actually gave an option for the last song, between Paranoid Android and Idioteque

Dale said...

That just sounds like the best time Barbara, I'm so glad it was such an awesome experience for you. I read about their show here and how amazing it was, lights and all. Enjoy basking in the afterglow (after you've dried out).

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

So this band, you like them huh.

Allison said...

I'm so glad to hear the concert was amazing, not that I expected anything else. I am amazed that you managed to remember the set list! I always forget details like that after the first couple of songs.

Thom's red pants are kind of adorable and I'm glad you got to see him bust a move in accordance to the head bob. Really, what more can you ask for? :)

Gifted Typist said...

Sounds divine, m'dear. utterly divine.

Can I ask something: did it meet or exceed your expectations?

I remember seeing U2 ( I know, I know, but I love them like you love RH). I remember being afraid that they wouldn't/ counldnt meet my expectations.

Well, they simply blew my mind. It was like the rapture. And I wasn't the only one describing it in those terms. It was also a small venue.

Gifted Typist said...

btw, I was reluctant on the previous post... more sign in confusion

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well done, you, Stephanie! On all counts. You must have been a finally tuned car reaching machine to get out of there in 20 minutes in that pouring rain.
That's a really nice setlist for Vancouver. I really wanted to hear House of Cards. I had heard that the Vancouver audience had a choice for final song. How sweet is that? Did you vote for Paranoid Android? And I didn't know there were any bleacher seats in Vancouver. Now I really wish I had been there as well.
I'm sorry we didn't run into each other at White River, I looked for you, but it's tough to find someone amongst all those Radioheadheads.

One never really dries out in Seattle, Dale,but fortunately for all of us, I like both the rain and this Radiohead band.

They are mildly tolerable to me, Dr M. I even have a few of their albums.

Eva agrees with you on Thom's red pants, Al. I have to admit they are growing on me. They don't curtail his dancing skills anyway.
Oh, and I can only ever remember the first three and the last two songs in order, so I rely on the memory of others to reproduce a set list.
Glorious show. Simply glorious.

I actually had to ponder your question a bit, Gifted. The concert more than met my expectations in terms of the quality of the performance and the sheer incredulity of seeing this band live, watching them make their magic. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to see Radiohead in a smaller venue. We were so far back in such a big venue that the intimacy factor was missing. But that is something that I may never get the chance to experience and I am not quibbling. You were so very fortunate to see U2 in a small venue. That's one for the great grandkids.

Anonymous said...

ohhh, you mentioned Idiotheque, but the Pyramid Song???

wow, can i invade your mind & bliss on the memories with you?

hey gorgeous, give your crew a hug for me!
kisses don't hurt none either!

Stephanie said...

I did vote for Paranoid Android as a matter of fact. And it was glorious!

There weren't many bleacher seats at the show, but there was a hill on the other side of the bleachers that people were sitting on as well.

I looked for you too, but it was hard to see up into the seats with the glaring sun in my eyes. It's really too bad we didn't run into each other.

Normally I'm a very well tempered driver, but driving in Vancouver and Seattle had me mad as zillions of people kept cutting me off and trying to drive into my car, so I just channeled that rage into cutting off 2 people at key times to get a good spot in the line leaving the venue. Although, I did follow up with heartfelt waves at the people I cut in front of.

Anonymous said...

I just re-read your spectacularly like-we-were-there review of The Concert. I can't stop reading it, Barbara, you paint an exquisite portrait of a most rare event.

And for the record, GOB is totally smacked by your ability to do a perfect Thom Yorke-blissed-out-inthezone-head swing. I am too! But I think H is crushing on you. ;)

I am SO happy you guys had a great time at The Concert, and blessed with a rainbow to boot! The only thing missing was a nice bowl of crab.

Seriously... it was pouring over here across Puget Sound during the concert... I'm glad the rain stayed here while your wonderful crew got to experience the REAL music project!

your t-shirt slayed, ya know. i mean, when a little "italian" guy feels the need to share a story based on your shirt, you know you rock. :D

Anonymous said...

Great review, Barb. I'm happy for you now that your dream has been fulfilled. Glad your trip was wonderful all round.

Sean Wraight said...


You must feel a little sad now that its all over but now you can build up the anticipation for the next one.

Thank you so much as well for the fantastic indepth review of the show. The pictures I have seen from this tour have been nothing less than breathtaking. Their setup on stage looks so very interesting. I'm glad they were able to pull it off in true Radiohead tradition with such style and grace. Could that LED lighting be any cooler?

So glad you enjoyed the whole experience.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hogs and knishes being dispensed as we speak, chelle! You do the same. Yes, they played a lot of songs that I did not expect, and it was pretty spectacular to get some lesser knowns in the lineup.

Heartfelt waves make everything all better, Stephanie. You are to be commended for making it to two RH concerts in two countries in two days. You need some kind of award for that! And of course, now I really wish we had gone to the Vancouver show as well.

Awwww mish, all of us are crushing on all of you! It's getting positively diabetic over here. We really need to show you around our neck of the woods someday.
The Thom head-swivel imitation abilities come from far too many hours wasted on YouTube watching the man, perfecting my moves.

It was spectacular, Berni, although starting to seem a little like I dreamed it all.

Thanks, Sean, I do feel a little lost right now. I miss the anticipation, I miss Seattle, I miss my friends there. But I have no right to complain.
The lights were simply astonishing. I've seen them in clips but in real life they were really sublime.

BeckEye said...

Sounds utterly wonderful! Seeing your favorite band for the first time is quite an experience. It's like every muscle in your body is screaming. It's kind of like a 2 hour orgasm.

This post gave me little chills because it reminded me of the first time I saw Pearl Jam. Meee-mor-ieeees. Lovely.

phlegmfatale said...

Envy mode set to eleven.

But happy for you, too!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You must have seriously needed a cigarette after your first Pearl Jam concert, Beckeye. Whew! Glad I could help you relive the moment in some small way. I know I will never be the same again.

You really must see them the next time they approach your area, PF. It's one for the history books.

phlegmfatale said...

I'll never miss them again. I swear.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That is the best promise you can make yourself all year, Phlegmfatale.

bloody awful poetry said...

I would have died right after "Reckoner". Which would have been a bit of a waste.
Sounds utterly awesome though, and glad you had the kickest-assest of times!

Will said...

Sounds like a wonderful show, and I loved reading your entire description of the day. Interesting how Thom kept the rain at bay for you, but then decided to wear the red pants in your honor, as if to say: "I can control the weather but I wear the pants I want to." What a great set list, though I can hardly imagine them going wrong with a set list. So amazing they played "Talk Show Host." When I saw them, they played "Creep" which was novel but, if I had to choose, I would've picked "Talk Show Host." "Idioteque" was an absolutely moment of heaven for me, too. What a band!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I would have put you on life support or something, BAP, to prevent your dying immediately following Reckoner. Better to die at the end of the show, I think.

Thom totally wears the pants,Will! He's the man and he knows it.
You got Creep at your show? You have been blessed with a rare and special event, although I agree that hearing Talk Show Host blew my mind with happiness.

John Mutford said...

I figured it was unlike you to forget the opening act. I just came back and saw that I didn't give this post the through combing that I usually do (actually I just skim looking for my name). But lo and behold, there's the Liars reference. Thanks for answering my question anyway.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

hahaha John, next post I am going to name-check you every third line to make sure you read it.'

Liars did a surprisingly competent job of opening. It would be more than a little intimidating to open for Radiohead, but they sounded confident and I loved their flailing drumming. Grizzly Bear would have brought a completely different approach, but equally fitting, although I am used to seeing them in a much smaller venue and wonder how their act would translate to such an enormous venue.