The sun is shining as the 'In Rainbows' world tour begins in the unlikeliest of locations. Cruzan Amphitheatre, Florida (May 5)

It does strike us as odd,” snarled one blogger on back in February, on the announcement of the ‘In Rainbows’ world tour, “that their first guaranteed date is a gig in the land of frat conventions and Jimmy Buffett.” Indeed, theirs were far from the only eyebrows raised. The juxtaposition between the tanned and often surgically enhanced citizens of south Florida and the notoriously un-sunny Radiohead, who tonight are beginning their first world tour for two years here, was and is lost on few people, least of all Thom Yorke. “We were in Miami Beach for three days. Fucking hell!” he smiles shyly during his band’s second super-enthusiastically received encore in the palm-tree lined Cruzan Amphitheatre. “It’s very strange. There’s some kind of reconstruction. It has me proud to be white, pale and English.” The faithful laugh heartily, just as they do when ‘Bangers & Mash’ is cheekily dedicated to the implant victims residing two hours southeast in Miami. In what may be an attempt to blend in, Thom even begins the show sporting a snappy Miami Vice-style white blazer.

Radiohead, though, are of course a band defined by such perversion. Thus, in this none-more-sunny setting, the only ‘OK Computer’ songs played are a claustrophobic ‘Airbag’ and ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’. Similarly, aside from a raucous ‘Just’, the bits of ‘The Bends’ they revisit, rather than the arena friendly title track, are ‘Bulletproof… I Wish I Was’ and a final, bleak farewell in the shape of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’. ‘In Rainbows’, meanwhile, is played in its entirety apart from – you guessed it – the single ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’.

Five songs in and they even pull out ‘The Gloaming’. Few are the bands of this size who are able or willing to unleash such challenging music upon an assembled crowd of nearly 20,000 especially when, as Thom puts it before ‘Morning Bell’, “we have no idea what people know of what we do”. The roar that greets this is so loud as to a) suggest the crowd know it all and b) prompt Thom to smile, “I think you heard the new record. I don’t get out much.”

Those who are out tonight prove his suspicions to be right. Opener ‘All I Need’ sets the tone for the show, with a closed-eyed Yorke in an intense trance, his head bopping rhythmically shoulder to shoulder. When the delicious fuzz and Led Zep rawness of the following ‘Bodysnatchers’ begins, the lights fade to a pale yellow, lending a sepia tone to the images of the five band members on the screen above. It’s intense, certainly, but the crowd are soon swaying to the moody ‘Nude’ and clapping in complex precision as Yorke saunters from mic to organ for ‘15 Step’. Tellingly, one of the loudest collective whoops of the night is reserved for the intro to ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. In fact, the ‘In Rainbows’ stuff blends seamlessly into the older songs — ‘Bodysnatchers’ is followed by ‘There There’ from ‘Hail To The Thief’ before a percussion-punctuated ‘Reckoner’, as Yorke’s clear voice scales the heights beyond the pavilion’s rafters into the starry, breezy Florida sky. And as they later delve into more unlikely stadium fillers in the shape of ‘Idioteque’, ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, ‘The National Anthem’ and the gorgeous ‘House Of Cards’, it becomes apparent that, wherever they may arrive at on the planet and however obtuse they are in their set selections, Radiohead will be greeted with love. At the outset of a world tour, at this strangest of starting points, it’s beautiful to see how universal their language has become.

Leslie Streeter