Coachella: Radiohead

To a warped looping synth Radiohead took the chilly Main Stage at 11:10. With Johnny Greenwood on percussion they start with the Fela Kuti-esque afro-beat freakout of Bloom with Thom Yorke in tight leather jacket and Die Hard villain ponytail slinking around like a loose, limey Prince. Their live line up now has a double bald drummer attack giving the performance a Kojack mirrored symmetry.

The first chunk of the set has Radiohead in phuture Phish jam band mode – (15 Steps, Mr. Magpie, Staircase) endless polyrhythmic grooves of African algebra rock, head fuck time signatures and Yorkes’ space scat floating on top. It’s hard for glow stick kids to dance to. At times the animations behind them resemble the Matrix with Thom’s reptilian silhouette freaking in the foreground. Over the stage hung 12 large square screens that flickered close up flashes of each band member to the stuttering rhythm of each song.

Yorke goes to an upright piano for Pyramid Song and The Daily Mail which ends in an amazing finale of multiple red faced Thom’s multiplied across the suspended screens. Two songs later the Coachella crowd sings along to a sweetly mellow Karma Police (one of three OK Computer songs) ending in an a cappella “I lost myself.” Thom saying he feels like he’s in an 80’s video with the wind blowing through his ponytail.

They play a new one – Identikit with pretty overlapping melodies from Thom and Ed O’brien, and building synth flourishes. Thom responds to the crowd: “I love you…but possibly not as much as you hope.” From there it’s Lotus Flower, There, There and Bodysnatchers off In Rainbows. They end the set with Idioteque with fragmented digital squared projected behind them. The song builds to a crazy siren wailing climax with flashing lights and Thom’s drum circle dancing.

Before the first encore the crowd sings happy birthday to the NBA tall guitarist Ed O’Brien and they’re into Lucky. Two songs later it’s the nights highlight with Yorke at the rhodes doing a solo verse of Neil Young’s classic After The Gold Rush– the wide skies are perfect for seeing the silver spaceships flying.

This segued into Everything’s In The Right Place and again their off. Back for one more encore they end the almost two hour set with their note perfect epic Paranoid Android. Good Night. Goodnight.

Photographs by Charlie Bucket, Chris Swainston, and Mike Bogart

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