nme.com has the world exclusive on the first segment of Radiohead's triumphant UK comeback gig in London...
Radiohead left the stage of LONDON ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL just moments ago to REACTION after a stunning two-hour set which included a mammoth helping of 10 new songs –
Radiohead have played six songs so far at their first UK gig for more than 18 months, and the reaction of the audience at London Royal Festival Hall is sheer awe.
The band are on incredible form, launching into the set with a new song, ‘Optimistic’, before hurtling in a vivid blaze of coloured lights into ‘Bones’, ‘Karma Police’ and another new song, ‘The Morning Bell’, which Thom Yorke introduced as: “This is a song about amnesia’. The frontman, who has said little during the set so far, played piano on the track, and guitarist Jonny Greenwood moved into centre-stage to play it, with Ed singing harmonies over Thom‘s hypnotic, repetitive chanting.
But it was an old favourite that has so far had the most vocal support from the fans. Fourth song into the set, ‘Street Spirit’ was the one that has fired the crowd up, followed by ‘Talk Show Host’.
The stage set is described as being quite minimal, with the emphasis on incredibly atmospheric lighting and the performance itself.
Celebs so far spotted among the fans, who are reportedly transfixed in a state of “complete hero worship”, include Beth Orton and Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon.
nme.com is the first website in the world to bring you reports live from the Royal Festival Hall in London, and as soon as Radiohead leave the stage tonight, we will update you with the full run-down of their set, so check back her e to see exactly what they played, what they said and what the faithful made of it all. We will also be at the after-show party and bringing any gossip from that tomorrow.
Don’t forget, we were first to report live from their astonishing comeback gig in Arles in France last month – to see how that show compared with this one and read our comprehensive coverage, click HERE. igniting speculation that this set may well be a prototype for the new album.
Only a few of the band’s classic tracks were included, with their earliest songs being dropped from the set altogether and certainly no room for a ‘Creep – not that the audience would have wanted it. They were clearly gathered in the lofty, theatrical setting to absorb every morsel of the new material and were rapt from the start of the set.
As exclusively revealed by nme.com earlier tonight, Radiohead treated an enthralled audience to an early taste of their new material, launching the set with the new song ‘Optimistic’, on which frontman Thom Yorke strummed an acoustic guitar. The song sounds like a natural descendant along the bloodline that began with ‘Planet Telex’ and continued through ‘Airbag’, with cut-up drums, lungeing backwards and sounding fragmented and almost tribal.
It was followed by ‘Bones’, without Yorke on guitar, and ‘Karma Police’, before the second new song of the evening, ‘The Morning Bell’, which Yorke introduced with the words: “The is is a song about amnesia.” The frontman made way for guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who took centre-stage while Yorke played piano. The audience were mesmerised by the song, with its almost hypnotic repetition of the word “walking” over the three minute or so duration, with guitarist Ed O’Brien lending vocal harmonies.
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Next in the set was ‘Street Spirit’, which received the best reaction of the first part of the show.
‘National Anthem’ saw Yorke clinging to the microphone, dancing almost spasmodically, as though electric currents were shooting through him and the song was dirty, loud and fragmented. ‘My Iron Lung’ went to pieces, grinding to a halt around half way through. Yorke was laughing out loud as he brought the song back in on his own. O’Brien took to the organ for ‘In Limbo’ which was dressed in some outrageous sound effects, with Jonny being given free rein on many of the new songs to indulge the increasingly experimental approach to songwriting.
Introducing ‘You And Who’s Army’, their most political statement yet, dripping with irony, Yorke quipped: “This is dedicated to Tony Blair. I’m only disappointed I never got to shake his hand,” before launching into the barbed lyrics “you and your cronies come out…”
‘Dollars And Cents’ was possibly the least strong of the new songs played, but the audience – on their feet for the first 50 or so rows of the all-seated venue in front of the stage – appeared to be enthralled more or less all the way through.
When the equipment began to play up during ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, Yorke started kicking the keyboards viciously, but it was hard to tell whether he was getting into the performance or taking out his wrath.
When they left the stage for the first encore, the audience response was deafening. They returned with the fantastic ‘Egyptian Song’, complete with a giant glitterball which descended from the rafters, and, as at previous gigs, Yorke described ‘Knives Out’ as being about cannibalism, with no further explanation. Both of those were among the more accessible new songs played.
On the whole, the older songs – ‘Just’, ‘Airbag’, ‘Lucky’, ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, which had the audience filling in the vocals – were smoothly executed, but it was obviously the new stuff the punters wanted to hear.
‘…Plastic Trees’ was one of the very few sing-along moments of the set, and from tonight’s performance Radiohead would seem to be shifting further and further away from structured songs and guitar-led tunes with a pop elemen into much more rugged, uncharted musical terrain.
The slow-burn build-up of ‘How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found’ left the audience stunned.
As they fans left the hall, one commented: “They have definitely moved on, and they have moved on in the right direction,” while another added: “As far as I’m concerned, this is everything I expected and everything I wanted.”
The full set-list for tonight was: Optimistic Bones Karma Police The Morning Bell Street Spirit Talk Show Host National Anthem My Iron Lung In Limbo No Surprises You And Who’s Army Dollars And Cents Exit Music From A Film Lucky Airbag Just Everything In Its Right Place
ENCORE Egyptian Song Knives Out Fake Plastic Trees Paranoid Android
ENCORE How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found