Fans cheer; earth weeps

Radiohead at Comcast Center, August 13, 2008
By WILL SPITZ  |  August 19, 2008

rheadinside.jpg
EASY DOES IT: Radiohead proved that you don’t need the pomp and bombast of U2 to rock an
enormous outdoor venue.

At about midnight — an hour after Radiohead left the Comcast Center stage a week ago Wednesday and an hour before I was able to get on the road for the 35-mile drive back to Boston — I started contemplating the ecological ramifications of thousands of cars idling in a parking lot for hours, not to mention the time spent crawling on the traffic-clogged highway to and from Mansfield. Last year, Radiohead partnered with a company called Best Foot Forward to figure out how to reduce carbon output from their tours; they concluded that fan travel is the biggest offender and encouraged us to take public transportation to shows, but they nevertheless booked venues where that’s an impossibility, like the Comcast Center (to which I will never return, unless maybe the ghosts of John and George were to reunite with Paul and Ringo for a one-off performance of Revolver or something). Someone at Radiohead HQ needs to be canned.

It’s a bummer that the four-plus hours I spent in my car feeling guilty about barfing loads of carbon into the air is most salient in my mind, because, as always, Radiohead delivered an awe-inspiring show. Thom Yorke, dressed in tight red jeans and prancing around the stage as if he were in Flashdance, led his mates through a dynamic two-hour set that included all of In Rainbows and more than half of Kid A. Highlights came when they hit extremes — restrained piano or acoustic-guitar songs like “Videotape” and “Exit Music (For a Film)” and noisy bangers like “Optimistic” and “There There,” during which Jonny Greenwood reminded us that, despite his forays into classical composing, he retains an uncanny knack for eliciting ungodly sounds from a Telecaster.

Surrounded by dozens of LED columns that made it look as if they were playing inside a church organ in Hell at some points and a sort of crystal ice castle at others, the band proved that you don’t need the pomp and bombast of, say, U2 or even Arcade Fire to rock an enormous outdoor venue. (At one point the crowd clapped along to the strange, music-box-sounding chords at the beginning of “Kid A” — one of the band’s least stadium-rock-y songs — as if they were at an AC/DC concert.) All Radiohead need to do now is prove they can practice what they preach and avoid venues like Comcast — or at least let us carpool with them.

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