Images by: Bryan Lasky
Words by: Scott Bernstein
Radiohead :: 7.11.18 :: Madison Square Garden :: NYC
Check out a full gallery of Bryan’s photos after the review.
English rockers Radiohead returned to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for their second of four shows at the iconic New York City venue. One of the big questions coming into the run was just how much the Oxfordshire-birthed band would change up their setlist from night to night. Last night’s concert saw Radiohead play 11 songs (out of a total of 25) they didn’t perform on Tuesday to the delight of those attending multiple shows. Thom Yorke & Co. are touring for their third year in a row and the band was impressively tight as they showed off the depth and diversity of their back catalog throughout the evening.
Radiohead opened in usual fashion with “Daydreaming” off their most recent album, 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Both “Daydreaming” and the “Desert Island Disk” that followed were among the slowest-paced songs played on Wednesday, which made for a stark contrast when the group lit into “Ful Stop.” The six-piece filled “Ful Stop” with tension and release as an oval screen above the band displayed psychedelic images with moving lights pulsing around the arena. “Daydreaming” and “Desert Island Disk” were well-placed in that they gave concert-goers a chance to get their bearings before the bombast began.
Thom Yorke is far from your prototypical rock and roll frontman, yet the way he captivated many of those in the capacity crowd was quite a feat. Whether audience members stood still in rapt attention, danced to the ever-changing rhythms or did a mix of the two, there were few I saw who were disconnected from the music. The audience seemed to hang on every word he sang throughout the nearly 150-minute performance. Yorke wasn’t in a chatty mood on Wednesday, but he did take a few opportunities to thank the crowd and introduced the group by saying, “The name of this band is Radiohead. I hope you’ve come to the right show.”
Yorke wasn’t the only member of Radiohead worthy of watching at The Garden. Multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood is a musical wizard who played what seemed to be dozens of different instruments over the course of the concert. Greenwood had many standout moments one of which came early in the show during “Myxomatosis.” Jonny added dense swirls of synth that perfectly augmented what the rest of the band was doing. One song later, on “15 Step,” Greenwood accented the music with layers of guitar rhythms. He would go on to vary between Fender Rhodes, synths, pedals, drums and other keyboards as he kept the road crew busy swapping instruments after each song. Watching Jonny Greenwood perform was worth the price of admission itself.
One of the first peaks of the concert came about an hour in with a breathtaking rendition of “The National Anthem.” The oval behind the band displayed bright and intense waveforms that complimented the similarly intense music. Drummers Philip Selway and Clive Deamer were in lockstep as the pair powered the Kid A classic. In true Radiohead fashion, Deamer switched between the drum set and various percussive instruments throughout the night. Clive was added as a touring member in 2011 and now it’s hard to imagine the band without him.
Each of the 25 songs Radiohead played last night was accompanied by distinct visuals. Just one song after the stunning red and purple waveforms were displayed during “The National Anthem,” the band’s production team turned the stage into a pulsing orb of green light for “The Gloaming.” Yorke danced around to the slinky groove throughout “The Gloaming” as he made full use of the large stage. A more subdued effect was used for the “Spectre” that followed. “Spectre,” a song Radiohead wrote for the 2015 James Bond movie of the same name, saw Yorke accompanied by bassist Colin Greenwood. The beatuiful tune provided a nice interlude before the set picked up in energy once more.
Wednesday’s main set concluded with a power-packed sequence of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” “No Surprises,” “There There” and “Everything In Its Right Place.” Each song received a big response from the audience when the first note was struck. It was rare that lyrics were greeted by cheers with the exception taking place during “No Surprises.” The capacity crowd roared its approval after Yorke sang “Bring down the government. They don’t, they don’t speak for us.” Thom’s vocals seemed to gain in ferocity with each passing song of the set. He especially shined on “There There” and “Everything In Its Right Place.” The former was propelled by four drummers as Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien banged on drums that were set up in front of them. “Everything In Its Right Place” was another standout moment of the evening thanks to the slick groove Radiohead laid down as Jonny toyed with Thom’s lyrics as soon as the vocalist sang them with the help of Greenwood’s digital effects.
Radiohead followed their 17-song main set with a pair of lengthy encores. Yorke introduced Kid A’s “Optimistic” as a song that is much more relevant now than it was when he first wrote it in 1998. The sextet then went with “Nude,” one of four tracks from In Rainbows to make the setlist on Wednesday. Jonny’s subtle guitar work on “Nude” accentuated Thom’s dire and throaty vocals. Next up was “The Numbers,” the evening’s fifth and final tune from A Moon Shaped Pool. The first encore ended with a breathtaking and intense rendition of “Lotus Flower” and the gorgeous The Bends ballad “Fake Plastic Trees.”
The six-piece didn’t relent throughout the three-song second encore that brought the concert to its conclusion. Radiohead opened the segment with “Idioteque,” one of the evening’s more electronic-tinged numbers. Colin moved from bass to synth while Thom grooved to the syncopated beat. The penultimate song of the night was “Exit Music (For A Film),” which with its organic sound and Yorke on acoustic guitar provided a major contrast to “Idioteque.” Yorke thanked the crowd one final time and amused both himself and the audience by declaring, “We are your mad uncles!” Thom then started up the beloved “Karma Police.” A huge singalong ensued in which at points the audience was louder than the band.
For a band known for moody and depressing music, there was a feeling of joy in the air as satiated fans departed Madison Square Garden. While Radiohead didn’t dust off any rarities, they wound up performing a stellar mix of material spanning their entire career and mixed it up nicely between Tuesday and Wednesday night. Radiohead resumes the run on Friday night.
Photos by Bryan Lasky
Fan Shot Videos | Captured by Jim Powers
Radiohead at Madison Square Garden
- Desert Island Disk
- Ful Stop
- 15 Step
- Kid A
- All I Need
- The National Anthem
- The Gloaming
- You and Whose Army?
- Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
- No Surprises
- There There
- Everything in Its Right Place
- The Numbers
- Lotus Flower
- Fake Plastic Trees
- Exit Music (for a Film)
- Karma Police
- Upcoming Shows