So David told a pretty good story, but not all parts of last night fit nice and neat inside a professionally smooth live concert review. Like the distorted little image accompanying this blog post on the front page; Patrol contributor Stewart Lundy’s exceptional choice of concert attire. Then you had Andy and Miriam Zipf, bravely trying to fight off the rain and mud on the lawn, Steven thanking his stars that he had traded his lawn ticket for one of my tier level seats, Grace wanting “Thom to beam me up into space with his columns of light and take me to Planet Radiohead,” and Shant shivering through five hours on the lawn and not regretting a single minute. It was a Patrol party, and it was absolutely epic.
There’s something about a band like Radiohead that allows beauty and transcendence to be experienced, even in the midst of some incredibly disgusting circumstances. Move past the rain, and take the corporate fat cat tables that were sitting dead center of the pavilion. You’ve got thousands of freezing fans desperately trying to get any type of warmth, and you have an entire section roped off for the big corporate executives-who didn’t bother showing up. I know Nissan has to scratch backs, but seriously, at some point and time, you do have to realize that your lifeblood is the customer, not the corporate sponsor. You, Nissan, also do not have to instruct your ushers to be absolute pricks for any and all people moving about the venue. It will not be the end of the world if I walk into a section further away from the stage than the one that my ticket entitles me to. I’ll manipulate and mess the system up if I can, but if you’d just chill out a small bit, I’d probably be a much nicer person/customer. You, Nissan, remind rock fans that they must continue to fight the man, even at a rock show. You, the destroyer of happy middle-aged couple’s carefully rolled, discretely inhaled joints, the smirking, unhappy, music-hating profit-monger who won’t bother to improve the roads surrounding the venue, leaving hundreds locked out of the show … you are the man.
Meanwhile, in another part of the venue, Stewart and his brother Evan found the best merchandise in the house, blankets for $15, and looked like misguided acid-tripping monastery escaping monks. I stayed warm inside my jacket and with the finger-tapping conversational skills of a text crazy fool; Indiana Jones had nothing on me.
When it came time for the actual show, Liars couldn’t get off the stage fast enough for me, and Radiohead could not stay long enough. When they finally opened with “All I Need,” I felt the same way I did when I saw Bob Dylan slowly walk out on-stage; you felt the presence of greatness.
Thom’s got this absolute insane energy possessing his body that causes him to completely lose himself inside his own musical world. The lights that were hanging down reminded me of a prison or a barrier, separating Radiohead from the rest of the world. These lights did some of the most ridiculous things throughout the night, but I couldn’t get away from the idea that they also made the band seem something other than just human. Radiohead makes music that doesn’t sound like it’s written by humans but music that absolutely tears the human soul wide open. I don’t think most people realized how breathtakingly gorgeous In Rainbows was, until they saw the band live. Every time, with the exception of “Bodysnatchers,” you hit a track from the album, you were granted just a few small minutes of peace and sanity from the absolute chaos that can be created when Radiohead tears through “Myxomatosis” or “Bangers and Mash.”
The band creates music that’s anything but overly introspective, but music that stirs some of the deepest emotions for the listening individual. It’s music that you discover by yourself, and music that you hold tight for different reasons. The band doesn’t have many singles, but they have so many songs that are absolutely monumental. You hold onto Radiohead because you, personally, have found something special, not because the radio found it for you.
I turned, a few songs into the performance, only to see the girl next to me singing while tears streamed down her face. The kids in front of me had driven five hours from Delaware just to see the band, and the people behind me just lit up.
I’ve got to confess something about my concert watching Sunday night. I knew that Radiohead probably wouldn’t play their “hits.” We probably wouldn’t find out that Thom really didn’t know what the hell, he was doing here, we wouldn’t forget ourselves for a minute and we definitely wouldn’t get left high and dry. Radiohead plays the songs that they want to play, the songs that represent the stage of life that they are in, and the fans still come to see them.
But, I wanted to hear “Fake Plastic Trees.”
It’s stupid, I know, but that song has had a huge impact on my life in the last few years and months. It’s one of those songs that ties together heartbreak and rejection better than anything I’ve ever heard. The song starts slow, starts mournful, and by the time that Thom’s screaming “She looked like the real thing/she tasted like the real thing/my fake plastic love” … your heart knows exactly what Thom means. Even the last few whispered, “If I could be who you wanted/all the time,” leaves the listener on the verge of tears as Radiohead’s Bends cut is still one of the best break-up songs ever.
But they really don’t play the song live. It’s a different time, a different era, and it’s been played far too many times for their own good. Even so, I kept hoping in the back of my mind. Thom walked out on stage for their second encore, talked to the crowd about how some people just got to the show due to the weather, dedicated the next song to them, and then…
The woman next to me whispered, “I want ‘High and Dry.'”
“I’ll take ‘Fake Plastic Trees.'”
Then the opening acoustic guitar started, Thom started whispering into the mic, and I felt warm tears roll down my cold face. I can’t really describe what happened in the next five minutes, but I remember raising my hands higher than a prayer, singing louder than an altar boy, and hearing an echo from the choir of Nissan, the church of Thom.
When the bridge finally hit, Jonny began destroying his guitar, the lights went bright, and Thom soared so high with his congregation.
They weren’t even going to play FPT according to the original set-list, but for some reason Thom decided that the crowd deserved something special; only the people still on the outside complained. The concert could have ended right there for me, but the band had to close things off with the doxology of “The National Anthem” and “House of Cards.” When I finally fought my way through the foot high waters, crashed into Shant’s car, and tore into the hummus and towels we had waiting there; I was absolutely exhausted.
You can put Radiohead into an official review and set-list, but somehow the band that writes music for the paranoid android can still make the most shivering miserable human being feel. You should have heard them sing during “Karma Police.”
So, there’s my side of the story. Feel free to drop your own thoughts in about the night, we all saw something a little different, but thank God we saw something.
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