Radiohead Live in Detroit

Monday night my bucket list substantially shrank thanks to Radiohead’s performance at The Palace of Auburn Hills. (I know I’m not the only one who can say that.)

Like many, I hold Radiohead on a pedestal. No matter what else is happening in music, I know that they’ll continue to press forward, creating stimulating art that both moves and makes you move. I discussed this a bit here in the context of artistic evolution. I know that a number of rock music fans felt betrayed by the electronic turn with and after Kid A. But, for me, that’s just when the band started to get to the nitty gritty. Yes, OK Computer was a harbinger, but it’s still a solidly nineties rock album. Yadda, yadda, yadda. The point is that I seem to love the band and its catalogue more with each new album. (King of Limbs and Amnesiac are probably my favorite Radiohead records, for what it’s worth.)

Famously, Radiohead hasn’t performed in Detroit for fifteen years. Even though the band tours little as it is, the tours that do sweep through the US skip Michigan, often with the band playing Chicago and Cleveland while thumbing their noses northward. Needless to say, my anticipation for Monday’s show was immense, despite my hearing and reading mixed reviews of past Radiohead concerts, both in media and from friends and colleagues. Well I’m hear to say (write/type/etc.) that their performance at The Palace was AMAZING.

I entered the venue excited but with a slight asterisk in the back of my mind, attempting to buttress any possibility that the band might go off the rails with experimentation, etc. Midway through the first verse of “Bloom,” the opening number of both the show and their latest album, any shred of doubt was instantly forgotten. The band, expanded to a sextet with the help of Portishead‘s Clive Deamer, performed impeccably. I wasn’t too surprised by the instrumental cohesion, but Thom Yorke solidly maintained his delicate falsetto throughout the night, something I didn’t quite expect. (I was similarly surprised, positively, by Justin Vernon’s vocal acrobatics when I saw Bon Iver in December.) “Reckoner” and “Give Up The Ghost” sounded no more difficult for Yorke during the encore than “Bloom” and “There There (The Boney King Of Nowhere)” did at the show’s start, more than two hours prior.

I’m not here to write a concert review, but rather to simply state what a wonderful time was had on Monday evening. Technical facility aside, it was refreshing to see a band like Radiohead “rock” an arena with typically un-arena-rock stylings. (Except for three songs from OK Computer, all the material was from Kid A and beyond. Though if you can get beyond the timbres and registers, it’s not as far from rock as one might think.) They simply did what they do, and they did it well. My wife and I sang and danced the whole night and are still grinning ear to ear.

It was a great way to cap off an epic weekend of concerts. (The preceding DMB shows in NY are discussed here.) And if there’s to be a moral to this story, and a way to tie my recent posts together, it’s this: as much as I love creating and performing music, I also love simply being an audience member. I fear that this is something too many performers  and composers forget. It’s nice to produce, but there’s nothing like being on the receiving end of something so enchanting as a great live performance. Especially one such as this.

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