Seeing as most of the journalists and sorta-journalists covering the Radiohead concert in Tampa last Wednesday are still hungover or have yet to be able to stop twitching and drooling and directing invisible orchestras with their hands, I feel no shame for waiting this long to post. My intention was to rush back to the hotel right after the show, right when the juicy feelings and expressive ideas were all still ovenfresh in my head, and write a long amorous and uncalculated review of the show. But you see, there are just so many places in Tampa were one can have breasts pressed against their face.
Like seriously. Tons of places.
OK. Quick question.
Why, when it is sweaty hot outside, do some people describe the climate as being “hot as balls?” The same thing applies to “cold as tits.” After extensive meditation on the subject, I can see a mild correlation between testicles and their reactive instincts to heat; nipples reacting to cold, etc. That sort of makes sense, in a basic pidgin grammatical fashion. But what I could not wrap my head around, until this past Wednesday at the Radiohead concert in Tampa, was the term “I tripped balls!”
I mean, what do testicles have to do with out of body psychotropic hallucinations?
Radiohead is one of those bands that I can’t make an argumentative critique of because frankly everyone who knows Radiohead already knows that they exist and travel in a dimension outside of natural stylistic analysis. I have listened to them more than any other musician I can think of, and have looked at every one of their albums as “THE MOST IMPORTANT ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” at least since Kid A. I am not a fair and balanced jury for Radiohead, but I don’t think anyone could be. You really either love and respect them and hail them as the best band there is or else you don’t know them. See? It’s hopeless. I can’t write a balanced review of the show, so instead I’m just going to tell you what it was like for me.
A guy I used to carpool with in the 8th grade (who basically was the template I wrapped most of my cultural tastes around from that point on) had OK Computer burned onto a CD, but it was all as one track, so there was no skipping ahead to specific tracks. It forced me to embrace OK Computer as a whole unit, as a magnum opus that could not be denied assimilation as a whole. Rather than go out bike riding in the woods with my friends or going on sweaty palmed movie-dates with the local females, I would sit on the floor of my room with my headphones on, wistfully deciphering the caustic and enigmatic lyrics. This was before I had hit my first bong, before I had slowed down space and time. Hell, this was before I had experienced some tongue on tongue. That all came in time, and Radiohead made a damn good soundtrack to all three experiences, but there is nothing like the first time. OK Computer came with an invisible bell that could not be unrung.
Flash forward a bunch of years. Present Exhibit A: beer belly and handlebar mustache, twenty times as cynical as I was in 8th grade, brain addled, underused but overworked, but still convinced that Radiohead is the Raison D’etre for Rock-n-roll. I had kissed enough ass to get a press pass to the show, and therefore decided to pass on dressing like I was going to a Radiohead show and instead opted to dress like I was going to a Merlot tasting followed by a lecture on Amish cheeses. (The whole press pass thing is a story for another date, when I am WAY
more famous and rockstar than I am now.) Our little posse filled our pregame tanks at a British pub and entered the arena a little shaky and pale-faced. Because I was a good journalist, and a damn good press pass deserving person, I showed up too late to see the opening band, Other Lives
, (who it turns out are quite cool) and nearly fell down the stairs while getting to my seat.
Sweaty and jittery, I spent the next two hours rubbing on my fair woman’s very soft dress and rubbing my hands through my hair and blinking excitedly and smiling so much my cheek muscles were sore the next morning. The young kid next to me spent most of the show air-guitaring and performing belly dancing hand techniques, sometimes both at once, all in a manner that seemed very personal to him yet worth doing in public. The mid-forties couple ahead of me shook their hips a lot and occasionally followed suit with the belly dance hand thing but also hugged a lot. A little to my left a twenty something girl sat in her seat for ninety percent of the show with a face that could only be described as pre-menstrual. She had a lot of really awesome looking tattoos and was dressed for a My Chemical Romance concert, and very likely had made a wrong turn and somehow ended up at a Radiohead show. Her friends knew every word to every song (as did my woman and I) and were trying to get her to join the fun for most of the show. A small part of me wanted to casually feed her to timberwolves and hurriedly invite another deserving life long fan into her place, like a Make A Wish Foundation for WASTE fans. (Kicking Screaming Warped-Tour Little Piggy)
“…now THAT’S more like it!”
As for the concert itself, my main concern going in was whether or not the songs from the new album would transfer as well live. News flash. They were better. It didn’t seem rightly possible for the bulk of songs from The King Of Limbs to be as good as they were live. You know how Grateful Dead people always rave about how amazing they were live? And how you try to nod and fake a cell phone call to exit the room? This is not the same thing. Radiohead unleashed an Inception-esque translucent sonic salvo upon a mightily hopped up audience who came there, for the most part, to be woken up from the humdrum dreams of Lady Gaga and Nickelback. I remember thinking that if it weren’t for OK Computer, I would probably have fallen to the wayside and spent the last decade hoping and praying for a Limp Bizkit reunion tour. Radiohead was a gateway band for me. But also a timeless standard, a reminder for all bands that aren’t just in it for the nookie to look up to and mimic. They certainly haven’t forgotten how to play their instruments. In albums and videos, we the myriad Radiohead fans subjected them to a heroic status, intangibly making them our Beatles, and our Pink Floyd, as every generation needs someone to wear those hats. But live… live they were fearless, stylistically incapable of folly, still culturally relevant after so many years. They rocked out to their own drums, and they inspired a room of 70,000 twitching head bobbing studious disciples to follow suit.
So yeah, the concert was nothing short of stereo obliteration of reality. Not only did an unlikely beacon of twenty years of musical influence play songs from every era of their existence, but they played them well! Anyone knows that getting Radiohead to play old songs is not easy. After what like, a billion years, they can still dominate a stage and captivate an audience. The King Of Limbs left me speechless when I first heard it. Because I am a cynical turd at heart- as well as a Level 82 Fire Mage- although I am prepared, I always expect the worst. An interesting amount of people thought TKOL was a let down, or too much of a departure from Radiohead’s previous trajectory as a band. Well I ask you this, what the hell does Radiohead do BUT depart from their previous styles? So to all the haters, go swallow a knife. Sorry, but as I said, its hard not to make this a puff piece.
“You put your hands on your hips…”
Is it wrong though? Thom Yorke’s lazy eye casts spells on me with every frenzied gyration of his lunar wiggledance. Those that have seen me dance could easily argue that Thom Yorke taught me HOW to dance. I wiggle and I hop and I writhe. Proudly! Because Radiohead taught me that it is OK to do so. And seeing about 70,000 people all in various forms of interpretive writhing was evidence enough that Radiohead was a transcendent experience. Some people like to put together model ships inside bottles, some people like to dress up like animals. Either way, they all share a mystical plane of understanding with their fellow enthusiasts. The same applies to Radiohead.
Here are some photos taken by a true professional in a truly professional and completely sober manner.
…Uhhh… a last shot from Planet Telex. Perhaps their souls are immersed in love.