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What happened to me on the Radiohead tour
Member Name: kenigma
Date: 12/03/01, updated on 12/03/01 (51 review reads)
Advantages: An absolutely incredible experience
Disadvantages: Hard to get tickets
First of all I'll start off with a general summary of my experiences on the Radiohead tour, and then I'll do a little review of one of the 15 gigs I went to..
Being an avid Radiohead fan, I was naturally intrigued and somewhat nervous as to what I was going to hear when I was queuing up to get into their first gig in over 18 months at Arles in the south of France. It was also the first time I had the chance to see them live, so I was brimming with anticipation. Call me insane but I queued up from 10 in the morning to make sure I got a place at the front. Then again, if I’m insane then there were a lot of committable people there too. Three girls had been there since 3 in the morning the previous night and several other people had arrived in the early hours. Bear in mind here that the gates don’t open until 7 pm.
There was an amazing community spirit that built up through the hours that passed until the gates to the Roman amphitheatre were thrown open and 2,000 fans made the sprint into the arena to get the best place they could. There were people who had come from all over the world to see Radiohead. There was Gabi from Argentina, Courtney from Ohio, Agnes from New York, Martha from Italy, Kim from Canada and many more besides. Some lucky tourists had arrived in Arles, discovered Radiohead were playing and managed to buy tickets for themselves.
For me and all the people I met and subsequently talked to, it was a revelation. The closest I and many of the other people there had come to Radiohead was a CD in a hi-fi, and there we were in a 2000 year old building seeing the band that has been hailed as one of the best of all time and hearing their new, unreleased and previously unheard material. We felt like the luckiest people in the world at that moment in time.
Sure enough Radiohead didn’t disappoint…far from it. I was up at the front by the barrier and after the thunderstorm had passed we were sure t
he concert was going ahead and the tension grew. It all seemed like a dream as the band whose music had influenced me came out onto the little stage between the stone columns.
Having watched Grant Gee’s film Meeting People is Easy I had been sceptical as to whether Radiohead would ever play another gig having seen how much friction and uncertainty there had been during the OK Computer tour, but the band that came on stage were a world apart from the one I had seen in the film. Thom was happy; Jonny, Ed, Phil and Colin were full of life.
The new songs have been well-documented in the months since the first gig, so I will spare you another attempt at describing them using recycled terms which do them no justice.
The next day they were supposed to play in Vaison La Romaine, but it was sadly not to be. The venue was a larger Roman amphitheatre in the side of a hill which had an incredible view over the surrounding countryside and was in remote French farming country.
Yet again I had arrived early to queue along with the others from Arles, and it was baking hot…so much so that I went to buy sun-cream. As the hours drifted by and the gig got closer it started to rain: lightly at first then starting to get harder. We all stood our ground – the crowd had grown to about a hundred by that point and a little rain wasn’t going to stop us from getting to the front. Then the heavens opened and ping-pong ball sized hailstones started falling. The water started flowing down from the hill above us and down the road we were lining up on turning it into rapids. The roundabout at the bottom of the hill was totally submerged at one point and cars were trying to plough through.
Vaison La Romaine had a flood that killed 11 people one year, so we were getting worried. Once the hail and rain became unbearable, everyone ran and took shelter in a nearby museum.
The gig was called off. Thom later posted a message on the
official message-board saying how completely gutted he had been at having to call off the gig. He knew fans had come thousands of miles in some cases to see them and had left disappointed. Talking to Jim their sound technician later I found that every effort had been made to keep the gig on, and that at one point the water had risen up over the stage and threatened to short out the equipment. After that they had to spend hours drying the equipment with hair dryers to get ready for the gig in Barcelona the next night.
The next few weeks seems like a blur now…I saw Radiohead another 7 times in 3 more countries and met all sorts of people who had made the trek to see them. Far from the band being unapproachable and moody as they are often portrayed, they are extremely down to earth. During the tour I got the chance to meet all of the band members and talk to them for varying amounts of time.
Thom and Jonny who would have every right to have told me to f*** off when I went up to them and asked for their autographs were really nice, and Thom even had a brief conversation with me about the previous gigs.
Phil and Ed were surprisingly chatty well after midnight as we cornered them outside their hotel in Paris, and even thanked me for “all the smiles” up at the front of the gig.
It all ended for me that time in Berlin in a bizarre concert hall only to begin again a few days ago in a muddy field in Newport, Wales.
The first day it had rained virtually non-stop and at one point around noon, Thom had walked across the field to the tent and then back. The few people that were lined up already went over and asked for autographs and while he was signing them I asked him what was with them and rain, to which he replied “someone up there’s trying to tell us something hey?”.
It wouldn’t surprise me if that someone up there wasn’t feeling rather threatened by Thom and co. There was wides
pread opinion that OK Computer could never be topped and that a break-up was on the cards, but from what I have heard of their new material they’ve done the impossible and topped it by moving off in a totally different direction.
In the poll carried out by Colin Larkin, the Beatles had top spot, with Radiohead’s The Bends following, then the Beatles again and then OK Computer. Had this poll been carried out after October 2nd, then it’s just possible that it would have been Radiohead with 3 entries in the Top 5, and not the fab four. Michael Stipe once said that Radiohead were so good that it was scary…now the whole music industry will be cowering in fear at the prospect of Kid A and the rumours of the 5th album in February.
The tent was rather fittingly UFO-like at night, with 3 spot-lights forming a pyramid above it and the tent itself glowing blue with orange blinking lights on top. From what everyone heard those 2 nights, it would be easy to believe that aliens had abducted the Radiohead we knew and replaced them with new people.
If you missed out on Radiohead first, second, third and fourth time around then get in on the act and try and catch them at one of their gigs that they will be playing with their upcoming album Amnesiac.
2nd September Tredegar House, Newport
“This is really happening” insists Thom Yorke as he spasms wildly on stage in the middle of Idioteque, the most talked about piece of new material from Radiohead in the last 3 years. Were it not for Thom’s distinctive voice you could be forgiven for staring wide-eyed in disbelief when told that the track is indeed by them. In fact many people were probably in need of reassurance that what was going on in front of them was really happening. We were witnessing the metamorphosis of one of the best bands of our time into an even better band – something that hardly would hav
e seemed possible after the universal phenomenon that was OK Computer.
At 8 o’clock the band came out to screams and applause from their second batch of 10,000 people assembled in a futuristic looking tent. Whatever the band have been doing in the last month since they finished their last tour, they have been doing it right. They all seem full of energy and enthusiasm. A stark contrast from the band in Grant Gee’s Meeting People is Easy.
The evening begins with Optimistic, one of the tracks on the upcoming album Kid A. By now a lot of fans had already heard the bootlegs of most of the Kid A tracks from their recent European tour, and were singing along. Next up was the classic Airbag which had everyone moving and singing along followed by Karma Police and then another new song: Morning Bell which a surprising number of people already know from the mp3s circulating on the internet. 10,000 people are captivated as they watch the new Radiohead burst out of the chrysalis and spread their wings. For those who didn’t manage to get up the front to the primary pit, there are video screens placed in the apex of two peaks in the tent on either side on which there are black and white images of the band on stage. Some people are so captivated by the show that they are standing motionless staring with a full cup of beer in their hand, untouched since the beginning of the gig.
After another new song National Anthem, a trio of classics from the back catalogue are trotted out in admirable style: Street Spirit, Lucky, and My Iron Lung, and then the tambourine and keyboard-led In Limbo – “You’re living in a fantasy” Thom tells the crowd and indeed many of them are living out a fantasy by being there. Speaking to people in the queue before the gig there were a lot of first-timers bubbling with excitement at the prospect of seeing the elusive Radiohead live. Another interesting thing was that the a
udience was incredibly diverse – there were teenagers who wouldn’t have been out of primary school when Pablo Honey came out. There was one family who had come all the way from Canada to see them. The father, the mother and the son arrived at around midday to check the place out well in advance of the 6 o’clock gate opening. There were Goths, grungers, punkers, Kevs and Trevs – every imaginable genre of person, all making the pilgrimage to see Radiohead.
The set continued with Knives Out (surprisingly omitted from Kid A but rumoured to appear on LP5 which Ed O’Brien was heard to say will be released in February 2001), a thunderous Climbing up the Walls, the classic No Surprises and another new song, Dollars and Cents which again has been omitted from Kid A but is rumoured to be on the next album.
The previous night, Exit Music (for a film) had been spoiled for many people by others clapping along through the haunting acoustic introduction by Thom but tonight the crowd restrained themselves and Thom’s voice went soaring into the night sky and resonated throughout the tent. Some people just stood and stared, others were openly weeping while many a “lad” tried hard to disguise their leaking eyes. It takes a lot to make 10,000 people be quiet, and there is something magical when it happens. Everyone is focussed on the voice as it turns from fragile and frightened to a furious crescendo and then into a lingering memory.
Paranoid Android was up next with a great reaction from the crowd to the familiar intro and Ed’s gyrating hips. Then came Idioteque which really defies description. It’s Goa trance meets Drum and Bass meets Thom Yorke. This is the track that will have every DJ licking their lips with anticipation. Idioteque is the farthest we have heard Radiohead stretch the boundaries of their musical style and they do it with style. For all the press have said that Kid A will be co
mmercial suicide and highly inaccessible, 10,000 people loved it on first introduction. Everyone I spoke to was full of enthusiasm about Idioteque, praising Radiohead for taking such a bold step so well.
We were given the chance to rrrrrock with Just up next, and then the sendoff was Everything in its right place, another surprising addition to the Radiohead arsenal. Jonny and Ed sit down on either side of the stage. Thom walks to the keyboard and starts playing. Ed sways his head in time to the beat and Thom starts singing “everything…everything…everythin g…in it’s right place”. Jonny plays with his little box of lights and samples Thom and plays it back creating a wonderful swirl of vocals.
What followed was a delightful treat for those of us who had been in Milan for their second night there on the last tour – the full fleshed out version of I might be wrong was the first song in the encore. In Milan Thom had started out on an acoustic version of Killer Cars for a group of people who were holding a banner, but half way through forgot the lyrics and promptly retuned the guitar and said “I’m going to do a new song.” It was a catchy tune acoustically but with the rest of the band playing it was even better.
Next came Fake Plastic Trees and The Bends and then the chillingly beautiful Egyptian Song with its glitterball lightshow and 3-piano-chord spine. “I jumped in the river and what did I see? Black-eyed angels swimming with me.” The tears started brimming at everyone’s eyes once again as the song progressed. As if this weren’t enough, for their second encore there was the now-familiar eerie hum followed by Thom on the acoustic guitar for How to disappear completely and never be found. The two guys who were standing behind me by the sound desk were swaying to and fro and crying. Fortunately for us it seems that Radiohead have no intention of disappearing
completely never to be found again, and far from it…are back with a vengeance.