[sic] Magazine

Radiohead. Paris Le Zenith, May 23rd

Judging by the set lists for the preceding 2 nights in Amsterdam and ones I’ve seen for subsequent gigs Radiohead are giving their all on this tour. Lots of A Moon Shaped Pool and a large selection from most (at some gigs all) of the other 8 LPs, clocking in around 2 and a half hours by the time they finish the 2 extended encores. It’s great to see how well the new stuff stands up (they have the confidence to start with 5 songs from AMSP AND it works) and the release of the album has given the audience a good chance to become familiarised with it. It’s also a superb showcase for the strength and variety of the back catalogue – the styles are varied but always uniquely Radiohead. ‘Burn The Witch’ starts – it’s less nuance more statement of intent than the recorded version, we are immediately gripped by the sound and hunger, this is so far from a going-through-the-motions show. As with the album, ‘Daydreaming’ follows and it takes a pretty special group to make “you could hear a pin drop” true for a new song in a 6 and a half thousand capacity venue. ‘Desert Island Disk’ is even more Laurel Canyon perfect sheen allied to one of the albums most positive lyrical moments. The 5 songs are topped by the motorik beat of ‘Ful Stop’ – all new but it really doesn’t feel like we are waiting to be impressed, we already have been and they can, but really always could, do what they fancy.

While there will always be the debate of listing their albums in order of merit they have the distinction along with the greatest bands of having a distinct feel and method on each LP. To paraphrase the blowjob joke “describe the worst Radiohead album you’ve heard – FANTASTIC!”. ‘My Iron Lung’ is Alt Rock perfection, a classic of its time, doing the absolute best with the (now) Quiet/Loud/False Ending clich├ęs and the first Big Rock Moment. Just to rub it in we get ‘No Surprises’ next and it is simply beautiful – and sadly as obliquely relevant as always. Equally fine as an Indie electronica band on things like Identikit the venue is dancing, crying or head banging (though that might be just me) at different times. It strikes me that the catalogue and career of the band put them very much in the same area as classic bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (not morally or musically, don’t write in). Every album is different, a “stand alone” piece, but equally every album could only be the work of one band and quality is valued over quantity.

The ebb and flow of available material means they can decide on how to blow the audience mind each night. Many have had ‘Street Spirit’ – we seem to be the only ones to get ‘Creep’ as of this writing. It’s almost too much. Simply one of the greatest rock songs of the last 30 years and a well reported Albatross to Thom in the past it’s an epic moment that few could have hoped for and really impossible to cap. So they don’t try, finishing with ‘Pyramid Song’ as a coda to let the enormity of the night to sink in before we float out. I think it is fair to say that this will be seen as one of the great tours of recent years, the work of very down to Earth Titans.