The line outside Kings Theatre on night two – abuzz with shivering ticket-holders discussing all aspects of Thom Yorke’s solo tour – not only went around the block, but all the way down the street and around the next corner. The glowing marquee was like a beacon for every fan of Yorke, Radiohead, or witnessing greatness, and moments into his second sold-out show, it was easy to understand the draw. Returning to the sumptuous Flatbush, Brooklyn venue on his Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes tour, Yorke let his brain take center stage, his songs becoming a playground for his distinct falsetto and experimentation.
Given what an exciting year Yorke’s had, it’s impressive that such a thoughtful and well-woven solo show would pour out of his soul at this moment in time. From scoring the soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 horror film, Suspiria (which Kings Theatre got a nice taste of on both nights), to the conclusion of Radiohead’s 2-year-long A Moon Shaped Pool tour, to their second nomination for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s astounding that Yorke has enough time – but not surprising in the least that he has an ever-growing reservoir of ideas. His fans respect his creativity on a celestial level, and just like when we caught Radiohead during their four-night run at Madison Square Garden in July, Yorke commanded everyone to their feet before he’d let out a sound.
Guests were wise to rush to the merch tables beforehand, since there were vinyl versions of the Suspiria soundtrack and a nice stockpile of tour shirts available – but also because Yorke is not one to waste stage time. Starting at 9:17pm with “Interference” and artfully making use of each minute thereafter, the Grammy winner delivered a 19-song setlist that spanned new solo songs, favorites like “Black Swan” (appearing fourth in the show), the cool grooves of “Nose Grows Some” and more – plus two Atoms for Peace songs, “Amok” and “Default.” Also on stage was producer Nigel Godrich, who alternated with Yorke on drum machines, bass, and guitar, as well as audiovisual composer/programmer Tarik Barri, who controls the 3D effects behind them in real-time. Combined with Yorke’s imaginative nature in the electronic realm, each show (save the setlist, which is fixed until the encore) surely differs in subtle, abstract ways, like the patterns of snowflakes.
If you could somehow pull your eyes away from Yorke’s passionate presence, fast-changing focus, and Barri’s hypnotic visuals racing behind him, it was fascinating to observe the audience’s response to it all. There was natural movement rippling across the crowd as Yorke grooved, some head-bobbing and chill dancing, for sure, and a lot of dropped jaws over his ethereal vocals. But strangely – unlike any other room in recent memory – many remained cautiously still, as if they were all in the woods watching a fawn through the trees, staying at a whisper so as not to scare it away. Seeing Yorke utterly in his element and stretching out solo was clearly a treat, and while fans let screams fly on impacts and interludes, you could tell they didn’t want to disrupt him while he was creating.
Rewardingly, Yorke seems to soak up every moment of his time on stage, keeping transitions seamless between songs as if a break would waste valuable seconds. Like his first sold-out Kings Theatre show the evening before, his finale was a one-song encore from the Suspiria soundtrack – “Suspirium” on night one, and “Unmade” on night two – which he performed on piano. From moment to moment, it was tough to detect whether Yorke was grinning back at his loving fans, or out of the pleasure of performing. It was likely a mix of both, and it was stirring to be surrounded by so many smiles.
Article: Olivia Isenhart