It’s rare to see Radiohead perform in an intimate venue when they usually command stadiums, so it comes as no surprise that queues formed around the block. Hawk-eyed touts littered the pavement outside and a few unlucky fans ended up outside with dodgy tickets as per usual.
Radiohead Live @ The Roundhouse
Unlike the larger gigs where Radiohead can play at the audience with little to no interaction, Camden’s Roundhouse forced them to bare their souls and invite the audience to follow Alice down the rabbit hole and on a musical journey for 2.5 hours.
They’re a formidable and well-oiled machine to hear live and I was lucky enough to catch the final night of three at the Roundhouse, their first London shows in four years.
Since the mid-eighties, Radiohead have carved their own niche in the music scene. They are incredibly insular and unaffected by the superficial trends of the industry. It feels as though they would still play a gig whether people bothered to show up or not, just because it’s the type of sound they want to play and hear.
The first time I saw Radiohead play live was ten years ago when they headlined V Festival. It had been a long day; I was 10 pints down and wanted big sound for the headline act which Radiohead didn’t deliver. I left the show early citing that they weren’t a festival type band which is why I was keen to see them perform in a small venue. It’s worth noting that a mate of mine saw them at Glastonbury which is about as big a crowd as you can get; he totally disagrees with me on this point.
When Radiohead appeared, a quiet chaos appeared on stage and along with this, a sound so immense it crashed throughout the venue in waves of guitar and electronica. Radiohead command an unusual level of intimacy and interaction when they perform, almost as though they bare their souls on stage so naturally expect us to do the same.
They were on fine form musically. Thom Yorke’s depressive lyrics were complemented by the saturation and richness of such a big sound and his sporadic onstage dancing showed he was enjoying the gig as much as the audience.
Their set list changed and flexed over the three nights, delving down into the vast Radiohead archives. The gig kicked off with their new single ‘Burn the Witch’ and sailed along throughout two encores to finish with ‘Paranoid Android’. Songs like 2+2=5 and ‘Climbing up the Walls’ poured out magnificently, as did B-sides which attracted some of the larger cheers throughout the audience. How many bands can say this?
It is clear that Radiohead have been around for a long time. Their sound isn’t polished but it is practiced, and their ability to wrap their songs in different clothing is what keeps fans returning. Not only are these some of the more intimate performances in a long while, but it’s clear they’re enjoying their sound as much as fans enjoying listening to it.
Worth noting that I also saw Thom’s band ‘Atoms for Peace’ a few years ago in the same venue and was equally as impressed at the careful combination of guitar and electronica. Proving yet again that this musical chameleon is able to change his style to suit other musical collaborations.
Radiohead live performance
So I don’t leave you high and dry, here is a copy of the set list from the night and also a recording. I apologise now for the quality.
Burn the Witch
Desert Island Disk
Talk Show Host
Climbing Up the Walls
Like Spinning Plates
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
Everything in its Right Place
Give Up the Ghost