The Smile live in London: Radiohead side project prove they’re human after all

January 30, Magazine: Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet's Tom Skinner's early morning gig proves a real wake-up call

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have formed a new group with drummer Tom Skinner from jazzers Sons of Kemet and – no surprises – they wow at the last of three shows performed in a little over 12 hours.

Door opens at 9am at Magazine, a new venue in Greenwich, and despite the blue-sky morning, one would hope that they don’t plan too many more of these for a Sunday. Attendants are led into a darkened auditorium where piano, bass, drums and amps are housed in a kind of skeletal cage, around which the 1,000-strong audience sits. With the TV-studio-style set-up, there’s an element of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire about it.

“There is a smile of love, and there is a smile of deceit…” a voice announces on the tannoy as The Smile alight the stage. The trio open with a ghostly refrain, as a warbling Yorke hunches over a piano for the opener, ‘Panavision’, one of many tracks debuted via Glastonbury’s Live at Worthy Farm online show in 2021. ‘The Smoke’, the band’s latest single, consisting of lop-sided blues guitar licks, sees Yorke switch to bass as spines of LED lights turn red. “It’s time for my breakfast,” he tells the crowd.

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So far, so very good – this is meticulous, captivating stuff. ‘Thin Thing’ brings head-rattling energy before Greenwood goes over to a woozy synth as Skinner picks up the felt drum beaters. Now Yorke’s on guitar, finger-picking at the strings for the mournful ‘Speech Bubbles’, the first of a few never-before-performed tracks that mark the most impressive part of the set.

At one point, the trio fuck up. Greenwood casts an anguished glance at his Radiohead bandmate, while Skinner grins at both as he breaks the rhythm. Yorke acts quickly, yelping: “Second verse!?”. A beat later, they’re back in the mix going full pelt. It lasts all of two seconds, but it puts the whole show into perspective. They’re human after all.

Eventually, they close the main part of the set with ‘You Will Never Work in Television Again’ – a clattering schism of post-punk guitar noise punctuating a round hour of jazzy, spacey, Radiohead-y songs. The trio leave, and then re-emerge with ‘Just Eyes and Mouth’, another marriage of warm chords energised by a towering rumble from the kit, before wrapping up with a fairly straightforward cover of Joe Jackson’s 1979 hit ‘It’s Different For Girls’.

It’s a stunning show – of course, it should be. This is an Academy Award-nominated composer, a Mercury-nominated jazz drummer and… well… Radiohead, and they’ve brought all their toys to share. All hail The Smile.

Credit: Wunmi Onibudo

The Smile played

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‘Panavision’

‘The Smoke’

‘Speech Bubbles’

‘Thin Thing’

‘Open the Floodgates’

‘Free in the Knowledge’

‘A Hairdryer’

‘Waving a White Flag’

‘We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings’

‘Skirting on the Surface’

‘The Same’

‘The Opposite’

‘You Will Never Work in Television Again’

‘Just Eyes and Mouth’

‘It’s Different for Girls’

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