Iconic U.K. rockers Radiohead played the third show of its 2008 U.S. tour Thursday (May 8) just outside of Atlanta, exhibiting confidence and restraint while enthralling a sold-out crowd. The show leaned heavily on material from their seventh album “In Rainbows,” released last year, and the setlist illuminated just how far the band has come a decade after the release of its breakthrough album, “OK Computer.”
At the time of that album’s release, toward the end of last century, Radiohead would soon be regarded by some as geniuses with an avant-garde masterpiece. In the eleven years since, the band has released several records — including “Kid A” in 2000 and 2001’s “Amnesiac” and 2004’s “Hail to the Thief” — and has shaken off any easy descriptive tags to become a true career rock band with plenty of staying power.
Illustrative of that fact is how many of the band’s best-known songs were left out of Thursday’s set list. Omitting 1993 mega-hit “Creep” off the docket was no big issue, but what about fan favorites “My Iron Lung,” “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” “Karma Police,” “Morning Bell,” “Knives Out” or “Myxomatosis”? Well, there’s just no room for everything anymore.
Even “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” the first single from “In Rainbows,” was curiously missing. Instead, the band presented fervent versions of every other song from the new record, and even tossed in the manic, percussive “Bangers and Mash,” released on the expanded “Discbox” collector’s edition of “In Rainbows.”
Electric columns descended across the stage, flashing multicolored lights throughout the show (perhaps to provide the appearance of the band actually playing “in rainbows”) and a segmented video screen showed close-ups of the band members.
“All I Need” started things off in a relaxed mood. After frontman Thom Yorke played piano on the song’s coda, roadies wheeled away the piano and replaced it with a pair of miniature drum kits for guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien to begin building the relentless polyrhythmic beat of “There There.” The rhythm-centered songs (“15 Step,” “Idiotheque”) received some the most energetic reactions from the crowd, Yorke often dancing like a dervish and inspiring similar behavior from his audience.
Atmospheric ballads like “Nude” and “Pyramid Song” were no less captivating as bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway kept the beat while Greenwood’s multitalented brother Jonny hopped from guitar to any number of electronic instruments, filling out the songs with keyboard flourishes and esoteric snippets.
After a 17-song main set, the group returned to the stage for the first of two encores, presenting an eclectic mix of songs that included the off-kilter, bass-heavy “The Gloaming,” mid-’90s b-side “Talk Show Host” and the evocative, undulating “How to Disappear Completely.” Resounding applause brought the band back out for a two-song farewell during which the epic “OK Computer” rocker “Paranoid Android” was unearthed. The night was finish off with a meditative take on the new track “House of Cards.”
Radiohead’s music may not seem as world-changing as it might have 10 years ago, but the band’s expansive, mature catalog has more entertainment value than ever before. The quintet is easily one of the most creative, original bands that can fill modern amphitheaters, and on a school night in Atlanta, it’s hard to imagine the rock getting any better than this.
Here is Radiohead’s setlist:
“All I Need”
“Where I End and You Begin”
“The National Anthem”
“You and Whose Army”
“Everything in Its Right Place”
“Bangers and Mash”
“Talk Show Host”
“How to Disappear Completely”
“House of Cards”