“We’re going to play some new songs,” Thom Yorke announced in between the twitchy, glitchy “15 Step” and the trancy “Arpeggi,” the first of many new tunes the band dragged out last night at Bank of America Pavilion. “That’s actually why we came out,” he added. “Otherwise we’d still be at home.” Nine of the 24 songs they played were new ones, and thus contenders for “LP7,” which they’re in the midst of working on with new producer Mark “Spike” Stent. With a couple exceptions, like the plodding 6/8 snoozer “Nude” and “4 Minute Warning,” an uninspired OK Computer rehash, the new material road-tested well, and held its own against the old stuff.
Like most of the audience, probably, I’d been listening to crappy bootlegs from the opening European leg of the tour during the weeks leading up to the show, but I hadn’t realized how dancy some the new stuff is, despite being mostly guitar-driven. Less heady and more visceral than Kid A and Amnesiac’s electronica, songs like “Bangers ’n Mash” and “Bodysnatchers” are rockist-friendly ass-shaking techno minus the technology: all loud, rhythmic guitar and uptempo, driving drums. Folks were freaking along with Yorke, who twitched and flailed and jogged with joy across the stage. For a band characterized as a bunch of pretentious melancholics, they sure seemed to be having a laugh up there, giggling at the occasional mistake and grinning at the crowd’s enthusiasm. At one point someone threw a pair of socks on stage. “I was hoping for a bra,” Yorke deadpanned.
Behind the band, big trapeziums displayed, alternately, blinking lights, animated scribbles, and live video feeds of fingers on frets and faces at microphones. Colin Greenwood, in the back, plucked nonchalantly at his bass, while Yorke and Jonny Greenwood multi-tasked: twiddling knobs, fingering synths and samplers while holding guitars, and taking turns at the piano throughout the show. During “Bangers ’n Mash,” Yorke even sat down at a little drum kit, playing a simple but sturdy drumbeat along with Phil Selway and singing at the same time.
The best song of the two-hour set might’ve been the opener, “There There.” Yorke came out wearing shades and hunched in front of his guitar amp, coaxing feedback out of it while Greenwood and guitarist Ed O’Brien pounded tom toms along with Selway. When Jonny picked up a guitar for the song’s climax, it was nasty and ear-splitting and beautiful, one of those transcendent live-Radiohead moments we fanatics are always going on about. There might’ve only been a handful of those, like the cage-rattling fuzz-bass ending of “The National Anthem” and the awesomely disconcerting drum entrance in “Videotape,” but after watching five humans produce such otherworldly, affecting music in front of your eyes, it’d be hard to argue that Radiohead aren’t one of the greatest bands going.
June 4 at Bank of America Pavilion
Set list:(First encore)
Dollars And Cents
The National Anthem
House of Cards
Bangers 'n Mash
How To Disappear Completely
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Everything In Its Right Place
4 Minute Warning
My Iron Lung