One of the hardest tickets to get in town, with Radiohead selling out two L.A. shows in minutes, the anticipation among the fans at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday night was palpable. After all, it has not been since 2010’s Haiti benefit concert that Angelenos have seen the popular English band, currently touring in support of new album A Moon Shaped Pool.
The venue accommodated those who arrived early, worried about potential delays with the will-call-only system, by converting the next-door Shrine Expo Hall into an indoor beer garden with DJ Ana Calderon spinning tunes and offering a Radiohead-themed photo booth.
As the house lights dimmed, the concert began with audio of Nina Simone explaining the definition of “freedom”: “It’s just a feeling, it’s just a feeling,” before she more succinctly concludes that freedom is “no fear.” Radiohead then delved into new track “Burn the Witch,” which was an interesting juxtaposition to Simone’s sentiment, since “Witch” is all about fear and paranoia, featuring such lyrics as “this is a low flying panic attack” and “we know where you live.”
The stage was decorated with a background of video panels framed like film reels, which spotlighted the bandmembers throughout the show, sometimes artfully displaying them in collage-type images. Frontman Thom Yorke danced along the edge of the stage, at times waving his arms in the air to the music like a conductor. His every movement held the audience’s rapt attention — even when he took off his jacket, the audience cheered.
Excited fans remained completely engaged during the concert, often applauding before the conclusion of a song, almost as if their excitement could not be held back, and then at its proper ending. Though the venue was seated, everyone remained standing for the duration of the two-hour show, and the crowd gamely participated in clap-alongs, such as during “Everything in Its Right Place,” and sing-alongs, such as “No Surprises.”
The show took on an expansive live sound, helped by the addition of second drummer Clive Deamer of Portishead. For “There There,” both Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien joined in the drumming, creating an explosive sound. Ever the multi-instrumentalist, Greenwood went from guitar to drums (during “Bloom”) to piano (“Daydreaming”).
Much to the delight of fans, the shows’ setlists have been varied, as the band has dipped far back into its catalog. For example, Radiohead performed “Let Down,” the OK Computer song that had not been performed in a decade, at Madison Square Garden on July 26. For this L.A. show, Thom Yorke and his fellow bandmembers treated fans to “True Love Waits,” which had not been performed stateside since 2006 (the band first performed it on this tour in Paris in May). The previously unreleased track, which had been available only on the I Might Be Wrong live album, finally was included on a proper album: the closer of A Moon Shaped Pool. This newer version, however, favors piano over guitars, creating a more haunting effect — and bringing noticeable emotion to those in the audience, who sang along to the repeated refrain: “Just don’t leave, don’t leave.”
Although the bandmembers kept in-between song banter to a minimum, mostly thanking the audience, at one point, Yorke said pointedly: “I have a great idea. [Why not] put a paranoid megalomaniac in charge?” Though he didn’t call out Donald Trump by name, it was clear who he was referring to, and the fans in the sold-out venue cheered their agreement. It was a fitting introduction to OK Computer’s “No Surprises,” whose lyrics include: “Bring down the government. They don’t speak for us.”
At the end of the night, after two encores, which included the aforementioned “Let Down,” as the audience erupted in thunderous applause, the bandmembers applauded back, as an acknowledgement of their appreciation to these devoted fans. “Thank you, good people of Los Angeles,” Yorke said. Although A Moon Shaped Pool could be described as melancholy and contemplative, the atmosphere of Thursday night’s show was uplifting and exciting, as the band’s performance reminded fans how technically sound, imaginative and timeless Radiohead is after more than two decades.