“Were you at Glastonbury?” – the question many a Belgian asks as they hear our English accents among the masses buzzing in anticipation for Radiohead‘s headline slot at Rock Werchter 2017. It was barely over a week ago, but it seems that the Glasto veterans’ return to Worthy Farm warrants enough of a reputation to spread envy and curiosity across the continent.
While their Glastonbury 2017 show was a stellar set for the ages that celebrated their legacy as much as it magnified their relevance today, there’s no denying that the true power of their performance may have been dwarfed, at least a little, but the weight in the occasion. Tonight, the focus is purely on Radiohead, what they play, and how they play it.
A stirring silence falls over Rock Werchter as the band come out to mirrorball lighting to waltz through the gossamer opener of ‘Daydreaming’. The song breathes, the crowd is hooked, then the rapturous response for the elegiac release of ‘Lucky’ welcomes the first of seven tracks that we’re treated from ‘OK Computer’.
Not that the band wallow in nostalgia by any means. Many of the peaks come from their latter day work. Contested by many to be their best album, it seems that ‘In Rainbows’ is the essential Radiohead album for fans who arrived to the party in the new millennium. It gets almost as much space on the setlist as ‘OK Computer’, and the likes of ’15 Step’, ‘Nude’ and ‘Weird Fishes’ feel just as momentous as ‘Airbag’, ‘Let Down’ and ‘Climbing Up The Walls’.
The twitching menace of ‘Ful Stop’ and ‘Identikit’ from ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ now feel like a fundamental part of the arc of the set, rather than just fodder between the hits. And what a setlist it is. From the camera close up on Thom Yorke’s piercing gaze during the chilling and cinematic ‘You And Whose Army?’ to the erratic mosh that erupts from ‘2+2=5’, it’s a dynamic journey into every high and low corner of their sound.
What makes it all the better is that the band are clearly loving it, revelling in the fine form that they’re currently in, and free from the pressures of the Pyramid Stage. Yorke even cracks a smile or two, frequently pausing to let out babyish babble and ask the crowd ‘wasssuuuuup?’
“What day is it?” asks Yorke with a Cheshire cat grin towards the show’s end. “Friday? Have a good festival”. He adopts a streetwise American drawl. “Don’t get too fucked up, you got work on Monday. Unless you don’t give a shit. I did after Glastonbury.”
He’s recovered well. As we holler back the refrain of ‘for a minute there, I lost myself’ for the biblical outro of ‘Karma Police’, there’s no doubt that they’ve bettered what they achieved last week. No, they didn’t play ‘Creep’, nor do they need to. What we got instead was a full-body portrait of a band in full stride.
Yes, I was at Glastonbury, but when someone asks when Radiohead were at their best I shall say ‘Rock Werchter 2017 – I was there’.
- Read more: Arcade Fire honour David Bowie as Lorde gets tearful during epic Rock Werchter 2017 sets on day one
All I Need
Everything in Its Right Place
You and Whose Army?
2 + 2 = 5
Climbing Up the Walls
My Iron Lung
Check back at NME for the latest from Rock Werchter 2017.