Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace | 4.5 | NY

Words by: Nick Todaro | Images by: Josh Jarrett

Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace :: 04.05.10 :: Roseland Ballroom :: New York, NY

Yorke & Flea - Atoms For Peace :: 04.05 :: NYC
Beneath the digital glitter that the world refers to as Times Square, there's a hidden layer of contextual meaning that provides an explanation as to why our world has become so hectically distorted. Taking a look around this area, advertising displays dominate the landscape; completely side swiping the architectural marvels that wait at every corner and undermining the gritty sincerity such a metropolis has to offer. For the average tourist, looking up at the Roseland Ballroom's marquee displaying "Atoms For Peace: Sold Out" must have meant absolutely nothing amidst the sea of endless billboards. However, if you were one of the people waiting in the line wrapping around the block to get into to the Roseland, it meant nothing less than the world.

Back in October, Thom Yorke assembled an all-star backing band consisting of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, R.E.M. and Beck touring drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco of Forro in the Dark to play Yorke's solo material. Now performing under the name Atoms For Peace, the group kicked off their first tour in New York.

DJ mastermind Flying Lotus opened the evening by delivering an animated set to an eager audience. For the majority of his performance, FlyLo grooved and lip-synced his way around the material while keeping his beats well knit. Regardless of his skills as a DJ, the Roseland's speakers were not able to handle the bass frequency of the performance. Cracking thuds kept interrupting the sound quality during the most unfortunate of moments. Ending his set with a remix of Radiohead's "Idioteque," FlyLo hyped the crowd right when they needed it most. "It's almost that time," he announced as the song came to a halt and the house lights came back up.

Atoms For Peace :: 04.05 :: NYC
A half hour later the fervent audience erupted into applause as the room went dark once again. Walking to the left side of the stage, Thom Yorke sat down at his piano to commence a full band recreation of his 2006 solo album The Eraser with the LP's title track. Along with the addition of a horn player, the band expanded towards a much denser sound than the record displays and instantly threw the crowd into a sonic trance.

Continuing the album in sequence, "Analyse" gave Yorke a chance to demonstrate his arcane falsetto. As the Ballroom attendees continued to fill the room with cheers, Mauro Refosco grabbed hold of a Whamola to add a compelling new element to "The Clock." After upbeat favorite "Black Swan," another instrumental surprise occurred with Flea - who happened to be rocking blue hair - swapping out his bass guitar for a melodica to produce a spellbinding version of "Skip Divided." Together, Yorke and Flea looked like a couple of snake charmers dancing underneath the entrancing arsenal of green pulsating luminosity. Clearly, these guys were having an absolute blast.

Godrich's stalky silhouette hovered over an assortment of electronics and synthesizers while keeping busy on "Atoms For Peace" and "It Rained All Night." Both of these songs received a huge crowd response, especially during the latter's stand out line, "And it rained all night and washed the filth away/ Down New York air condition drains." Keeping the energy level high, "Harrowdown Hill" gave Flea a rare opportunity to return to his slap bass roots, which attached a new layer of funkiness to the tune. As "Cymbal Rush" concluded the opening set, eyes remained fixated on the whirling figures up on the stage.

Thom Yorke - Atoms For Peace :: 04.05 :: NYC
After a brief encore break, Yorke returned to perform a few songs solo. "Boy! There's a lot of stuff to remember in those songs. Speaking of remembering, here's one you've never heard before," he said before debuting "Chris Hodge/Let Me Take Control." The number features a trill vocal performance by Yorke as he supplely finger picks his way around the guitar. Following this was a piano driven "Daily Mail," which Yorke debuted last summer. Building up to the song's pinnacle of pouncing chords, Yorke sent the crowd into a frenzy as he finished and went into the Radiohead classic "Everything In Its Right Place."

After another short break the rest of the guys rejoined Yorke, and the group dove into the Radiohead b-side "Paperbag Writer" before plunging into a new Radiohead track entitled "Judge, Jury, Executioner." Held together by a bouncy rhythmic core, the song boasts a dimension of gloominess that's become one of the signature elements of Radiohead's music. Grinning, Yorke added a sense of foreshadowing to the last songs by stating, "We're about to get crazy up here." Soon, the room became immersed in a battle between jumpy bass patterns and frantic percussion rhythms during "Hollow Earth." Similarly, "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" felt completely disorderly with its changing time signature, while maintaining a strict composition that could only have been masterminded by Yorke. Ending the track in a glitchy jam, the band waved their final goodbyes and the crowd pleaded for more.

Walking out of the Roseland and back into the dizzying clutter of lights in Times Square, many seemed to be wondering if these live performances would result in the group collaborating on an album together or further touring. Underneath the tangled assortment of propagated messages, experiencing something with such a consequential vibe to it seemed far too genuine to have a limited number of occurrences. If Atoms For Peace is any indication of Yorke continuing his career outside of Radiohead, we're in for one hell of a ride.

Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace:: 04.05.10 :: Roseland Ballroom :: New York, NY
The Eraser, Analyse, The Clock, Black Swan, Skip Divided, Atoms For Peace, And It Rained All Night, Harrowdown Hill, Cymbal Rush
E: ChrisHodge/Let Me Take Control (NEW SONG)*, The Daily Mail*, Everything In Its Right Place*
E2: Paperbag Writer, Judge, Jury & Executioner, Hollow Earth, Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses

* = Yorke Solo

Atoms For Peace Tour Dates :: Atoms For Peace News :: Atoms For Peace Concert Reviews

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