Radiohead leaves a lasting impression in Tampa

The UK art rock outfit delivered 23 songs and a stunning display of lights and video

click to enlarge Thom - Phil Bardi
Phil Bardi

Amid a brilliantly mesmeric display of video and lighting technology, British art rock heavyweights Radiohead ripped, oozed, slithered and slinked their way through 23 songs, their Leap Day concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum not quite epic, but certainly close enough to leave a lasting impression. [Text by Leilani, photos by Phil]

The set was designed like a kinetic work of art. The band was spread out beneath a rig of a dozen small square screens that hung from cables, and tilted and shifted position throughout the night. Each box displayed its own live video feed of a musician at play or dazzling visuals that complemented the larger backdrop of brilliance rising up behind the band and looking like a giant stage-spanning Light Bright (turn on the magic of colored light!). Sometimes it was saturated with vivid glowing color, jagged comets of horizontal light making bright trails through its surface, or dark and speared by bright white lines of diagonal light like shining pinstripes, or it faded in and out in shimmering sheens of watery shadow and light.

Directly above it all, one long rectangular screen that spanned the entire width of the stage played its own changing blocks of live video to complement the hanging squares, and like the squares, offering close-up glimpses of the band members as they performed. Jonny Greenwood, hunched over a mini-kit, flushing out the percussive textures, or crouched over the scattered synths on the floor to create layers of ambient sonics, or bent over his guitar, pouty-lipped dark-eyed stare peering out beneath his dark fringe of hair. Older brother Colin Greenwood, standing back and adding soulful bass drive to the mix with a veritable lack of fanfare, biding his time away from the glare and keeping company with beat technician Phil Selway, whose shaved head gleamed under the lights and matched the bald skull of aux drummer Clive Deamer. Ed O'Brien, lanky, perfectly unshaven and laid-back, delivering his usual consummate guitar work and effects along with vocal harmonies to complement the mournful wail of Thom Yorke, whose clear high-reaching falsetto wound through the room and caressed the part of our consciousness that loves this band so much.

Yorke was definitely more chatty than I’ve ever seen him — and it wasn’t like he said all that much; a few thank yous, song introductions and ironic hypotheticals of the “Are you ready?” sort. But he seemed more comfortable on stage and in his skin, full of bounding energy and in unusually high spirits, for Thom Yorke, anyway. Sometimes he played guitar, sometimes a piano that was rolled on and off the stage at various points throughout the night, and occasionally his enthusiasm burst, and the normally stoic Radiohead frontman broke into dance, grooving around the stage with his flail-limbed scarecrow style, cracking some genuine smiles (!), and even jumping up onto the piano at a particularly excited point. It was incredibly endearing and I like to imagine it’s the warm Florida weather and people that put him in a good mood.

Radiohead doled out explosive moments, quietly transcendent moments of sublime beauty as guided by Yorke's sometimes wordless serenades, and moments of experimental ooze, when the musicians simply layered percussion and guitar and waves of synth haze together into a noisy propulsive brew that seemed chaotic and disorganized until the band reined it in with seeming ease.

They played almost all the tracks off last year’s The King of Limbs — this being the support tour for it and all — and proved that in a live setting, they could pump up those subtle beat-driven tracks into a strident and more sonically-vibrant whole. Radiohead also treated us to a heavy dose of newer fare that included the two songs recorded during the King of Limbs sessions and released late last year: “The Daily Mail” and “Staircase.” The politically-charged former got its own intro from Yorke — “This is dedicated to all the bankers who make money off other peoples’ despair” — and the gloomy doom-building piano rode to a crescendo of bombastic instrumentals and dazzling red lights. They also played two brand new tripped-out tracks, several cuts from In Rainbows, a few select numbers off Kid A and Hail to the Thief (“Idioteque” and “Myxomatosis” both ratcheting up the energy in the room), and a single track off OK Computer, “Karma Police,” which was part of the rock-solid seven-song double encore.

As a very rare and unexpected Leap Day treat, Radiohead closed the show with an earlier number, “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” off 1995's The Bends, Yorke commenting “you might remember this one” before his elegant voice soared over the room and closed the show with melancholy, heart-squeezing beauty.

Some people say Radiohead is overrated. After last night's show, I'll stick with my argument that they are rated exactly as they should be, and deserve all the praise they get, as well as some they don't.

Little by Little
Weird Fishes/Arpeggio
Good Morning, Mr. Magpie
Meeting in the Aisle
Pyramid Song
Identikit (New Song)
Lotus Flower
There There
The Daily Mail

All I Need
Everything In Its Right Place (True Love waits intro?)

Give Up the Ghost (Thom acoustic solo)
Karma Police
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

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