Like bees on sweet flowers, Radiohead’s fans swarmed Madison Square Garden zealously before their Tuesday night show in NYC – the first of the English rockers’ sold-out four-night run in the sweeping arena. With coveted merch and 2018 tour shirts safely in their grasp, the entering crowd sustained an excited hum that kept increasing in volume as they filled up the darkened venue. It was a palpable and communal kind of buzz, from the tears streaming down faces in G.A. to the reactions drifting from the sections above, like “I never even imagined I would get to see this band live,” as one fan realized aloud before the icons snuck on stage. When a swath of soft light revealed the well-known lineup in position at 8:45pm, and the show kicked off with the ethereal “Daydreaming” at 8:46pm, the thousands who were seated rose to their feet and held a devout stance, clapping and rocking their bodies in a wistful daze.
The response from the Garden during Radiohead’s performance was so unified, every burst of applause was easy to interpret; squeals of recognition each time they identified the next song – most fans needing no more than a split second to do so – and meaningful howls over prescient, politically-relevant lyrics from years past. There was also a sense of respectful restraint, with many cheers clipped short so as not to interrupt or overpower the music, which was dynamically rich and often chillingly quiet. Switching things up from previous tour dates, Radiohead’s setlist was freshly ordered and focused equally on 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool (on which they’re currently touring) and 2000’s Kid A, along with a nice bundle of songs from In Rainbows, OK Computer, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, The King of Limbs, and even the titular song from The Bends, which made for a dramatic finale. “Good evening everybody. This is off the same record…right?” Thom Yorke asked with a big grin between “Morning Bell” and “Optimistic,” as if relying on his fans for direction. “This is off a record called Kid A; went to number one in America,” he reminisced. “I remember staying in Central Park that week when it happened and going… ‘what the fuck’?”
The nimble musicality flowing between Yorke (on vocals, piano, guitar, tambourine) Jonny Greenwood (on keys, guitar and more – having released new material that same morning in the form of sheet music), brother Colin Greenwood (on bass), Ed O’Brien (on guitar and vocals), and Philip Selway (on drums) gave their sound the slow-burning intensity that makes it so distinctive. The production – which would have been a key feature, had there not been so many striking aspects of the music – complemented every possible fraction of the beat. The crisp beams of white light hitting the disco ball were right in sync with the huge screen oozing visuals behind them, which frequently layered real-time video of each musician in a way that really showed off their contributions. Yorke’s voice was gracefully at ease even as his body mirrored the fast-changing lights and graphics surrounding him, his characteristic swerving as carefree as ever; muscles moving like he was somehow underwater, often outstretching his arms or gently conducting the tempo with a smile. The air grew noticeably grassier as the Garden rocked blissfully with the beloved band, and amazingly, there were hardly any phones visible throughout the arena during the show. In fact, there were more empty hands in the air than we’ve seen in a good while as Radiohead’s fans recognized the value of what was unfolding before them and tuned in with incredible focus. “Yes, yes, yes, yes…” Yorke murmured simply between songs, echoing precisely how their fans were feeling.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley