“When it comes it’s so, so disappointing.” Well there’s a self-defeating prophecy if ever we heard one. As the sun sinks below the horizon and Radiohead open their first Scottish show in almost a decade with the oxymoronic lament of ‘Let Down’, it’s hard to imagine feeling anything other than full-body euphoria – just ask the girl standing next to us, who bursts into tears as Colin Greenwood’s bassline kicks in.
Here, on the first night of Scotland’s newest festival, Radiohead lay down a marker that fellow headliners Kasabian and Biffy Clyro will do well to come anywhere close to: for two and a half magical hours, TRNSMT becomes TRNSCNDNT.
The band’s presence on the bill certainly represents something of a coup for the organisers, but it also establishes a differential between this festival and its predecessor, T in the Park, which had spent its last few years moving in a more pop-oriented direction. There’s always a carrot-and-stick dynamic to any Radiohead show, whereby if you indulge them an ‘Identikit’ or ‘Reckoner’, you’re rewarded with a ‘Lucky’ or ‘Creep’ – or, in this case, ‘The Bends’, whose land-sliding power-chords are met first with gasps of disbelief, which soon give way to unbridled elation.
Yet tonight’s setlist feels more evenly-paced than last month’s Glastonbury performance, where a sizeable section of the crowd had drifted away by their second hour; here, they hold us rapt from beginning to end.
There are so many individual highlights that it seems a shame to elevate one above the others, but a field full of people singing along to Thom Yorke’s tricksy cadence on ‘Pyramid Song’, the seditious cheer that erupts during ‘No Surprises’ when he sings “Bring down the government, they don’t speak for us,” and the skittering techno wig-out of ‘Idioteque’ certainly warrant mention.
So too does the sound of 35,000 Scots willing the heavens to open on ‘Paranoid Android’ (they don’t, thankfully) and chanting the mantric refrain of the closing ’Karma Police’ as they disperse into the night. At a certain point, you realise that the dip in momentum you’ve been anticipating isn’t going to materialise, and that while they might loathe the implications of the word, Radiohead are a rock band par excellence, whose sense of outsiderdom and alienation serves to bring people together in thrilling and uniquely satisfying ways.
It’s a strength, not a weakness, that they’ll never be the sort of band who give people exactly what they want, but they do have a knack of delivering what any given occasion needs. Tonight, TRNSMT needed to get off to a flyer, and Radiohead, in their own way and on their own terms, delivered just that.
Check out the full set-list below
‘All I Need’
‘Everything In Its Right Place’
‘2 + 2 = 5’
‘Fake Plastic Trees’
TRNSMT festival continues through the weekend with headline performances from Kasabian and Biffy Clyro, as well as sets from The 1975, Catfish and The Bottlemen, The Kooks, Two Door Cinema Club and Twin Atlantic.