Words & Images by: Drew Gerlach
Radiohead :: 05.05.08 :: Cruzan Amphitheatre :: West Palm Beach, FL
Billed as the "Best Live Rock Band" by various publications, the anticipation for Radiohead's long awaited tour reached fever pitch in sunny West Palm Beach on Monday night. Throughout the day people from all walks of life descended upon the Cruzan Amphitheatre and the South Florida fairgrounds mellowed out, liquored up (thanks to Cinco De Mayo), appreciative that they would be the first to witness the band's first full fledged tour since 2003 (not counting their ten city run through North America in 2006). There was a large cross section of South Florida's population in attendance with everyone from hipsters to frat/sorority types to common hippies smoking bowls and young yuppies sipping on wine in VIP boxes. Though from different backgrounds, the crowd was extremely amicable. No matter where you turned inside the arena or parking lots, people shared beer, food and conversation, savoring one another's company in the pre-show glow.
As the lights dimmed at 9 p.m., Radiohead ventured into an abyss of darkness. Thom Yorke greeted the maximum capacity audience with a simple "Good evening." Then the first synth notes and mangled beats enveloped as the group took the stage set with large hanging columns that emitted various colored lights throughout each song. Having seen U2 and other stadium bands, no words could do Radiohead's light show justice, and even pictures only share half the story. The music surged and rolled with every crescendo and lull. Along with these huge light columns, there was a giant video screen that focused on each member, providing various angles and artistic shots as they worked through each piece. Also of note, Yorke acknowledged and introduced two Tibetan flags draping instruments and dropped in a few words about Tibet's human rights struggles.
Highlights from the main set included a grungy, riff filled "Bodysnatchers" that sounded more like it came off the band's raw 1993 debut Pablo Honey, as opposed to their latest offering. For most fans, outside of the Internet, it was their first chance to hear the new cuts from In Rainbows live. Most came off seamlessly and were well received. On a lighter note, Radiohead proved they too could be human, halting "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" halfway through and then continuing after a few seconds of corrections. Whether it was because Yorke, a renowned perfectionist, looked visibly uncomfortable without a guitar or just first night confusion, it didn't matter to the crowd, who loudly cheered both times when they stopped. After completion, Yorke murmured facetiously, "I think we need more practice."
The crowd reached its peak for the main set when the electronic beats for "Idioteque" enshrouded us and coerced over 15,000 fans to sway in unison. The magnetism of the rhythm brought Yorke to awkward spasms fed by the pure ecstasy of the moment. The field - an orgy of humanity of different races, upbringings, social levels, religions and cliques, all feeling the moment and forgetting everything else - flowed in ceaseless synch. It was truly breathtaking.
Radiohead :: 05.05 :: Florida
The first encore brought out quality versions of Radiohead stalwarts "Optimistic" and "Just," then pushed into the next gear with a beautiful, serene version of "Faust Arp" with Yorke and Greenwood playing an acoustic guitar duet, which brought about a deeper intimacy often lacking in large amphitheater venues. They finished off their first encore with a special morsel, "Bangers & Mash," an In Rainbows disc two cut that most revelers hadn't heard before this evening. Prior to the song, Yorke, seeming at ease, opened up about a three-day holiday on Miami Beach earlier in the week and cracked a joke about "reconstruction [plastic surgery]" and being proud to be "pale, white and English".
Their second encore brought about the highlight and climax of the show, a haunting, warm version of "House of Cards." With the columns of light emitting a soft blue haze that gave the band a ghostly glow, Yorke's falsetto cooing literally brought rain from the heavens. Adding to the ambiance of the moment was the crowd hunkering together and clapping (something you just don't see much in South Florida) through the majority of the song. Radiohead finished off a nearly two-hour set with a smooth version of "Street Spirit." When the house lights slowly began to rise, the crowd was left questioning "Was that it?" greedily coveting more.
"The National Anthem" 5/5/08 W Palm Beach FL
05.05.08 :: Cruzan Amphitheatre :: West Palm Beach, FL
All I Need, Bodysnatchers, There There, Reckoner, The Gloaming, Morning Bell, Nude,
How to Disappear Completely, 15 Steps, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Idioteque, Bulletproof... I Wish I Was, Where I End and You Begin, Airbag, Everything In It's Right Place, National Anthem, Videotape
Encore: Optimistic, Just, Faust Arp, Exit Music, Bangers & Mash
Second Encore: House of Cards, Street Spirit
JamBase | Sunshine State
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