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Radiohead / Beta Band
Morrison, CO. | Red Rocks Ampitheatre | June 20, 2001 | Text: Dave Herrera

Ladies and Gentlemen, those Radiohead kids can experiment all they want with that new fangled electronica toy they recently discovered; however, last night's Red Rocks show saw the resurgence of the Rock. Make no mistake, Radiohead brought along their newfound bells and whistles, they simply strategically interspersed them with a plentiful amount of their predecessors. I can say with every degree of certainty, you'll not see a better show this year. In this recession prone economy, clocking in at just under two hours with a twenty-two song setlist spanning the bulk of their catatlog, you'll be hard pressed to find a better value. It's worth every cent you'll fork over—and then some.

On the second night of their first American tour in over three years, the setting couldn't have been more picturesque. If you've never seen a show at Red Rocks, rent "U2: Live Under a Blood Red Sky" to use as a reference. Red Rocks is an all natural amphitheatre literally carved into the side of a mountain, by God himself. Let me put it this way, it's a venue that artists plan entire tours around. Suffice to say the experience was somewhat surreal, with Radiohead providing the soundtrack for the evening.

The band took the stage at dusk with the Denver city lights flickering in the distance. From the opening notes of "National Anthem," it became quite apparent on this night, Radiohead came to play. After all, they had three years of catching up to do. The band meticulously worked their way through a spirited rendition of what is arguably one of Kid A's best songs. With the giant projector screen positioned stage right, showing black and white, live motion video and the alternating strobe lights ala MTV's the ten spot, deja vu began to set in. Except this time, the world's greatest band was in the flesh, not on the idiot box.

During the opening verses of "The Morning Bell," guitarist Johnny Greenwood stood back with one arm folded across his chest, while Thom Yorke exhibited his musical prowess on a Rhodes keyboard. Greenwood's befittingly stacato stabs during the chorus of an otherwise subdued track contrasted Yorke's and guitarist Ed Obrien's harmonies very nicely. Judging from the uproarious applause that greeted the band as the song ended, the fans agreed, Radiohead was back and better than ever.

Like storm clouds rolling in, the fog machine made the first of many appearances over the course of the evening. Just as the next song, "Lucky," began to take shape, it became obvious what songs the crowd favored. "Karma Police" began with Greenwood minding the Rhodes and Yorke trading in his Telecaster for an acoustic. It ended with Yorke repeating the lines, "I hope you choke, I hope you choke," as a capacity crowd of roughly 10,000 sang along, word for word.

In a brief digression while introducing "Exit Music," an unusually exuberant Yorke quipped, "The clouds are interfering with my signals." For dramatic effect, the song started with Yorke engulfed by a lone spotlight, as he strummed his acoustic. As the other instruments came in, one by one each member of the band was illuminated. Then as if on cue, a series of strobes were lit in sync with the apex of the song, until the lights dimmed one by one, leaving Yorke again strumming his acoustic under a lone spotlight.

"This is a song about car accidents" Yorke mused coyly, as he introduced the first song of the night from Amnesiac, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box." Ever since I'd first heard the new record, I wondered how the new songs would translate live. Surprisingly, the songs sounded even more emphatic. The brooding, trance-like tones from the album's opening track sounded even more menacing live with a dirty clavichord vibe. Yorke's eerie fascination with car crashes showed up once again when he introduced "Airbag," as a "Christmas song about a car crash." The band turned in a performance that was painstakingly exact to the original album cut.

During the rarely played "Permanent Daylight," from the Iron Lung EP Yorke entertained the crowd with Angus Young-esque rock kicks before the band effortlessly sequed into a dirge-like version of "No Surprises" complete with Greenwood adding ambient contours with the xylaphone.

Throughout the duration of "Dollars and Cents" my attention was diverted to the screen at stage right. For the first time during the course of the evening the black and white images were replaced with color ones. The camera angles were less prominent and the images were given a soft focus ala a '70s stag film. When I focused back to the stage, Yorke was gyrating like only he could, beating a tambourine like it owed him money.

Next up was an absolutely amazing version of "Fake Plastic Trees" that seamlessly commingled with a stellar rendition of "I Might Be Wrong." The interplay between O'Brien and Greenwood's guitar work and Yorke's lucid falsetto, easily made it one of the stand out tracks of the evening, an evening where every track seemed to be a stand out track. Another of the stand out tracks of the evening was "Pyramid Song" which again was given a different treatment than what appeared on the album. A rather sedate Colin Greenwood accompanied Yorke's piano playing with a cello.

The rest of the set was devoted to their most innovative material. From the shifting dynamics and audio schizophrenia of "Paranoid Android," to the digitized vocals of "Everything In It's Right Place," expertly replicated live, with the help of O'Brien and Greenwood manipulating the samples of Yorke's vocals. Before finishing the set, Yorke paced the stage like Ozzy, inciting the audience to clap on cue.

With that, the band left the stage clapping, as if to acknowledge their brilliant performance. When they returned a short time later, they treated the crowd to some rarely heard material from their back catalog, and a stoic rendition of "You and Whose Army," complete with Yorke on piano, and Colin Greenwood on cello.

Tasked with the dubious distinction of being a music critic, there's very few shows that I go to of my own volition. This was one of them. If this show was any indication of things to come-trust me on this one-Radiohead is on the verge of becoming bigger than U2 and almost as influential as The Beatles.

Dave Herrera

Set List:

1. National Anthem - Kid A
2. The Morning Bell - Kid A
3. Lucky - OK Computer
4. Karma Police - OK Computer
5. Exit Music (For A Film) - OK Computer
6. Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box - Amnesiac
7. Airbag - OK Computer
8. Permanent Daylight - My Iron Lung E.P.
9. No Surprises - OK Computer
10. Dollars and Cents - Amnesiac
11. Fake Plastic Trees - The Bends
12. I Might Be Wrong - Kid A
13. Pyramid Song - Amnesiac
14. Paranoid Android - OK Computer
15. Idioteque - Kid A
16. Everything In It's Right Place - Kid A
17. Bones - The Bends
18. Street Spirit - The Bends
19. You and Whose Army - Amnesiac
20. How To Disappear Completely - Kid A
21. Talk Show Host - Romeo and Juliet Soundtrack
22. My Iron Lung - The Bends

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