Radiohead | 05.17.08 | Texas

Words by: Sarah Hagerman | Images by: Dave Jackson

Radiohead :: 05.17.08 :: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion :: The Woodlands, TX

Radiohead :: 05.17 :: Texas
It's difficult to mine my thesaurus for any new synonyms to describe the resounding influence and striking power of Radiohead. They are one of those rare "across the board" bands that most folks of disparate musical backgrounds can come to some sort of truce over. But, as I stood in the heart of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and surveyed the crowd of all ages and assortments, I couldn't help but wonder what it is exactly about Radiohead that brings us together under an all-encompassing tent.

Perhaps it's because they give voice to our collective unease. Broiling throughout their work is a deep repulsion with plastic suburban reality and the liars in political and corporate offices that help create it. Yet this antipathy is surrounded by a clever sense of melody, technological prowess and uncensored emotional release that isn't limited to mere anger at the system. There is also the possibility of transcendence, however elusive. This is perhaps most apparent in their awe-inspiring live shows, which arouse genuine outbursts of emotion, crazy screams or simply silent awe from the audience. Somewhere in that release you gotta believe is the hope that we aren't fucked after all.

Saturday's weather reflected that initial feeling of gloom with gray drizzle over a pedestrian shopping mall across the street from the venue, where efforts to look effortlessly natural could not hide the crass commercialism of the space ("Fake Plastic Trees" indeed). Once inside and safely tucked under the pavilion, the sunshine broke just as Liars took the stage. "Houston, we have held the storms at bay," proclaimed towering Aussie frontman Angus Andrews as the folks on the lawn shed their windbreakers and ponchos. It was weird and wonderful to see this band outside of a club setting, but Radiohead are open fans of Liars (listen to Thom Yorke's guest DJ slot on NPR), whose blend of noise rock and discordant reverb can be as off-putting to some as it is exciting to others. I am one of the latter, and I stood shaking my head in vigorous approval as Liars tore their set wide open, leaving the guts and meat of sound spread on the stage. Through the beating stratums, screeching attacks and heavy drones, Andrews stalked around the stage like a man possessed, shuddering his body to attention and at times staring intensely at some imagined point on the horizon. They clearly had a divided audience. For every couple standing and rocking there were plenty sitting silently and checking their watches as the sun sank.

Radiohead :: 05.17 :: Texas
After Liars left the auditory landscape in ruins, the depths of anticipation grew as row after row of long metallic light tubes were meticulously drawn across the stage, the mere presence of roadies eliciting cheers from the audience. Everyone was clearly chomping at the bit, waiting for the house lights to go down, and when Radiohead took the stage it was to deafening roars. Opener "15 Steps" was predictable, but a punchy kick-start to the set, as it is on In Rainbows. Nearing the end of this leg of the tour, the mechanisms driving the stage show were running smoothly and quickly and there was very little down time between songs. Yorke moved between guitar, piano and his signature enraptured dancing with quick ease, but his formidable presence does not distract from the other band members. I was especially impressed, as I always am, with Johnny Greenwood's techno-sculpting and Phil Selway's percussive switchbacks. Honestly, I can't remember the last gig I went to where each individual member changed instruments so frequently and proficiently. Under the hood this engine runs clean.

A shimmering "Morning Bell" kicked off a series of songs that fell gradually into an uneasy abyss, climaxing with the heavy beats of "Weird Fish/Arpeggi," which spiraled further down into the nail biting claustrophobia of "The Gloaming." The explosion and audience jolt that "National Anthem" caused following this trio scooped us back up from the ocean floor. It may be calculated tension and release but I'll be damned if it didn't feel like being pushed to the surface, rising quickly towards the light at 100 miles an hour, our fear turned into liberation. This ebb and flow marked the set, that didn't reach farther back than Kid A, with the notable exception of "Lucky." It played out like some sort of post-apocalyptic rock opera, balanced equally with computer blips and acoustic guitars and capped by the hypnotic dual bass drum beating of "There There."

Radiohead :: 05.17 :: Texas
Initially, I was not equally as spellbound by the first encore. I personally find "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "House of Cards" to be two of Radiohead's weaker tracks, which says something about the high bar their music has set for itself, and live they failed to take off. But, when I saw Ed O'Brien, Yorke and Greenwood each pick up an electric guitar I braced myself for a wicked sideswipe. It came hard and heavy with a brutal "Climbing Up the Walls" and doubled back for another swing with a gorgeous, swirling "Planet Telex."

This rocketed me into evocative memories of listening to The Bends while driving in my friend's Camaro somewhere in the backwoods of Rhode Island. I stayed in that orbit through the always-popular (with great reason) "Idioteque" finale. In many ways, a Radiohead soundtrack has marked my growing awareness of this world. As they evolved, so did I, rolling on turns of beauty and despair sometimes existing only a few notes apart. "There was nothing to fear / Nothing to doubt."

05.17.08 :: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion :: The Woodlands, TX
15 Steps, Bodysnatchers, Lucky, Morning Bell, Nude, Pyramid Song, Weird Fish/Arpeggi, The Gloaming, National Anthem, Faust Arp, Videotape, Optimistic, Where I End and You Begin, Reckoner, Everything in its Right Place, All I Need, There There
Encore I: Jigsaw Falling Into Place, House of Cards, Climbing Up the Walls, Planet Telex, Street Spirit (fade out)
Encore II: You and Whose Army?, Idioteque

"Everything in its Right Place" - 5/17/08 - Houston, TX

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phat22 Fri 5/23/2008 11:52AM
Show -20 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
gony4983 starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 12:04PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Beautifully written article. "...a Radiohead soundtrack has marked my growing awareness of this world" - really well-said.

Lord-K. starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 12:22PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Everyone loves this band because it is living art at it's pinnacle. Go see them on the second leg of the tour and tell me that it isn't some of the most proactive art you have ever seen!

KCReb starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 12:34PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This show was phenomenal. I found myself being dazed and confused (in the best way possible) most of the night. Although people were upset they didn't play many older tunes, it was nice to see the entire In Rainbows album translated on stage. Everyone needs to catch this tour.

Props on the review also- very well said.

soulink starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 12:58PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This show was epic. Major surprises were how rocked out Planet Telax was... watch this video and wait for 3:25...

On You and Whose Army? Thom peered from behind his piano into the camera. With the entire stage dark, all that was left was his face and sometimes just his eye on the screens behind them staring into the audience. Coupled with the eerie song it seemed like he was trying to pierce into everyone soul at the same time. EPIC!

YEM Fri 5/23/2008 03:20PM
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I had the pleasure of attending both Texas shows. They were simply MAGICAL!!!!

RothburyWithCheese starstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 05:45PM
Show -14 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
1radioheader Fri 5/23/2008 06:43PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


the Charlotte and Atlanta shows were sick. . . . . some of the best music ive ever seen

1radioheader starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/23/2008 06:44PM
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oh, yeah, . . .. . fantastic review. . . . very well written

johnnyblaze36 Sat 5/24/2008 12:16AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I too attended both Texas shows and they were fantastic. My only complaint was that they played what seemed like the entire new album each night. While it's a great album, it would have been nice to see them not forget their roots so much as well. And as for the Liars, people were not feeling it. They were definitely one of the worst, if not the worst opening band I have ever seen.

Muffinman1 Sat 5/24/2008 04:03AM
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Great Fucking article man! House of cards id also one of my least fav. Radiohead songs. This band is legendary. I saw them in VA and it was pouring, but it was one of the greatest shows I've seen, and pretty sure one of the greatest I'll ever see.

Muffinman1 Sat 5/24/2008 04:06AM
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O, yeah, johnnyblaze, I totally agree with you, Liars is the worst band I have ever see live. EVER. Nobody in VA was feeling them at all. I couldn't wait for their set of noise to be over.

USCTrojans4Life starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/24/2008 06:00AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


bon-to-roth-to-acl: you my friend are a total wanker and i will see you in my home town at rothbury. be prepared to put your head in between your legs as we all pound your stupid face.

i would be willing to bet you would be front row at any radiohead concert as they are the most amazing live act on the planet right now!

USCTrojans4Life Sat 5/24/2008 06:01AM
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oh yeah, and what are their only 5 good songs?

RothburyWithCheese starstar Sat 5/24/2008 06:56AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Lord-K. Sat 5/24/2008 07:53AM
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^3 posts of idiocracy who the hell comments on their own posts?

DubSaw starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/24/2008 09:53AM
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that stage setup looks ridiculous !!!

heylookitsmarco Sat 5/24/2008 12:25PM
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bon-to-roth-to obviously don't listen to enough radiohead.

Mountain_Icculus Sat 5/24/2008 12:45PM
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I love how his 5 songs are their most mainstream stuff. I think he forgot to throw Creep in as well. Couldn't agree more heylookitsmarco. IT WAS A CRAZY GAME OF POKER I LOST IT ALL! I bet he digs those guys...

MoreTunes Sat 5/24/2008 04:44PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


hahahahha.... very nice point ..Mtn Icculus....couldn't have said it better. Very good article...and for the most part unifiable positive feedback, ironic.

BRabbit Sun 5/25/2008 10:10AM
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the fucking stage looks like it is melting if you stair at it long enough. lollapalooza is going to be sick. cleveland is going to be sick.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstar Mon 5/26/2008 05:32AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

nice lighting.

standingtaller starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/26/2008 06:13AM
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I can only live vicariously through yous peoples..."House of Cards" and "Jigsaw" are both excellent, misunderstood songs it seems.

Love this article, keep 'em comin'.

gmoo Tue 5/27/2008 12:50PM
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Yeah, the lighting is inspiring. Radiohead...not so much. Everything since Kid A has been such a downer I often wonder why these guys still make music. Are they competing with post-Animals Roger Waters' material to see who can create the most pessimistic fanbase? 'Just because you feel, it doesn't mean it's there' is probably the saddest statement I've ever heard in music. Well written article regardless.

gmoo Tue 5/27/2008 12:51PM
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^^^ Don't get me wrong Radiohead was once one of my favorite bands, just as Pink Floyd once was.

FreshFlavor starstarstarstarstar Tue 5/27/2008 02:58PM
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Great article and pictures. Thanks.

moejoerisin Thu 5/29/2008 10:40PM
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awesome article. i love this band now and forever, and don't understand how you can honestly like the string cheese incident and not at least appreciate radiohead.