Please, I beg of you -- don't let my enthusiasm for this band and this concert instill images of cliché fanaticism in your mind. Over analyzation and critical internalization are two of both my strongest and weakest features, so yes a lot of posterior rumination came after this show. As much as I found it hard to fathom at first, I have come to accept the truth that a solid group of my passionate, music-loving friends can not get into Radiohead. They may enjoy psychedelic expansion and ethereal rock fantasy in other contexts, but Mr. Yorke and the boys just don't rub them the right way. And since I've gone on such emotional and existential journeys with this band, I have at times insisted that they were seeing something wrong -- that they were grabbing onto flecks of surface cracks, and that they needed to slide down the icy depths that cycle underneath all that forward imagery. Let go of any preconceptions, I would say.
But I realized something in Seattle -- as much as this band requires an elevated degree of ego-abandonment to truly embrace the music, Radiohead also requires you to instill a solid part of your identity back into them. At its core, at its thriving epicenter, this is massively reflective music. As much as the entire concert took my breath away, the most poignant moments were during the songs that I had already made a deep connection with in my life. As much as this show was amazing, what was entrancing was my own personal attachment to this music. So I realized that you can't teach love…you know? I can't teach you to love my mother the way I do, and I equally can't teach you to love Radiohead the way I do. Let alone teach you to love the band as they were in Seattle.
Flanked by double-drummers and a new expansive list of deep-cuts, this show delved into some deeper and darker parts of their catalog, and I held a continuous smirk throughout the set knowing that this night presented a near elimination of any surface sparkle. There was no place for "Karma Police" this night, hardly any OK Computer at all actually. No straight rockers, so nothing off The Bends either and thus a lot of girlfriends at the concert who were trying to remember why they liked this band in the late 90s.
At first I was dismayed by half the crowd sitting down, but then I became appreciative of the different ways to experience the wonder. And frankly, when not becoming completely overwhelmed by the lights I found myself taking full advantage of the dance-space on the general admission floor and not giving a fuck what anybody else was doing anyway. "Bloom" was the obvious opener as it's opened every show so far this tour, but the subsequent "15 Steps" was when I truly realized where I was. With the limited U.S. tour they did after In Rainbows, most Americans had little live experience with the last album's tunes, so seeing them come to full fruition with the spanking attack of double drum kits caused those creeping smirks to transfer between the eyes of neighboring, quivering strangers. There was an even distribution of tracks from both Kid A and Hail to the Thief, and again there was little time for any of the mopier tracks. Last year's single, "The Daily Mail" was as slow as anything got during the evening and it was the relative freshness of the song that was able to keep things moving. The surprise drop of the night came in the form of the dark, obscure, polyrhythmic single: "These Are My Twisted Words." Yorke would preface the tune by saying, "If you don't know this one, then just hang on for the ride."
Oh, that's right -- the lights. Panels of band close-ups rotate above the band as an enormous LED light panel channels segments of The Matrix in perfect accordance with the music. I'm no tech-whiz, but we've come along way since cats were pouring watercolors on projection tables. Anyway, despite the constant visual melt-plosion and the near-constant tribal assault that the setlist provided, things did find their way into mellowing out some. All be it in the Radiohead fashion of mellowing out, where you need to check and make sure the right side of your face is still there. The first encore 4-punch of "How to Disappear Completely," "Weird Fishes," "You and Whose Army," and "Lucky" was an other-worldly 20-minute flow of dream-scapes. The kickoff from the Kid A track fully succeeded in living up to its name, and I thoroughly lost myself in the rafters for a few moments. I was already on Cloud 9 when they came out for the 2nd encore. When "Reckoner" started up out of nowhere I suddenly found myself on Cloud 27, and looked over to see my girlfriend on the parallel rung. If any tune has ever felt more like the divine rising, I have yet to find it. And yet the best sensation of the night struck me as the house-lights went on. Contemplating the collective oneness of humanity, I realized that these sensations of wonder that Radiohead had just laid upon me were merely a channel of their own wonder. They find just as much joy in this emotive expansion as their most diehard fans do. You can hear it. You can see it. It's obvious. These are humans elevating themselves to the most tangible degree of extraterrestrialism. And they're not trying to invite you along for the ride; they're trying to show you the ride is already happening. You're on it whether you want to be or not.