Tag Archives: king of limbs

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.

New Listens: Recent hit parade

Holiday travel and a busy start to 2011 really slowed down the New Listen posts. However, I’ve still been acquiring and absorbing all kinds of new albums the last few months. Instead of giving a blow-by-blow account of each one, I thought I’d simply list them in “autobiographical” order (to reference the great Rob Gordon in High Fidelity). They’re all quite good, and some of them – notably Anniversary!, Mostly Coltrane, and King of Limbs, among others – were instant classics in my library.

I’m often curious as to what others are listening to, which is why I wanted to offer something about the new music I’ve acquired over the last few months. Hopefully, now that I’m a bit “caught up” in that department, the New Listens will resume regular appearances. 🙂 Feel free to email me for any specific descriptions/questions.

Dave Matthews Band: Live Trax Vol. 19: Vivo Rio – 09.30.08, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Dave Matthews Band: Live in New York CityThe Big Apple
Stan Getz: Anniversary!
Herbie Hancock: Fat Albert Rotunda
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: The E Street Shuffle
Air: Moon Safari
Dave Liebman: As Always
Dave Liebman: Negative Space
Grateful Dead: American Beauty
Grateful Dead: From the Mars Hotel
Grateful Dead: Truckin’ Up To Buffalo (Live 07.04.89)
Trio Mediaeval: Stella Maris
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Into The Great Wide Open
Steve Kuhn Trio w. Joe Lovano: Mostly Coltrane
Elton John: The Big Picture
Dave Liebman: Lookout Farm 1974/75 (Deluxe Edition) – box set
Dave Liebman: Quest Live 1988 + 1991 (Deluxe Edition) – box set
Jenny & Johnny: I’m Having Fun Now
Jeff Coffin: Commonality
Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts I-IV
Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine
Radiohead: King of Limbs
Grant Green: Grantstand
Rilo Kiley: Take Offs and Landings
Smashing Pumpkins: Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (gradual, as released…)


A few weeks ago I finally picked up Radiohead’s quickly-(in)famous King of Limbs. I’d been wanting to give it a listen since its initial (surprise) digital release. (However, being a stickler for always wanting a hard copy, I opted to patiently wait until the physical release.) My primary interest stemmed from my being a longtime fan. Another part of me, though, wanted to see what all the hubbub was about – Facebook and the Twitterverse were blowing up with very mixed reviews. Most critics lauded the effort, with fans going in many directions. Friends and colleagues were in quite the tizzy. Six weeks later I finally got my chance – I love it! I gave it two careful listens that first day, and a number of others since, and my fondness has only increased.

But this isn’t a “New Listen” review…

I’m continually amazed by fans’ feeling betrayed by an artist’s (in this case, band’s) natural evolution. (Yes, I’m certainly aware that everyone can’t be a total fan of everything, but this concerns active fans.) Of course, an artist can unexpectedly change course – for reasons personal, commercial, or otherwise – and cause an uproar, the response to which could be perfectly understandable. However, often times, when discussing those heavies with long careers and extended catalogues, change is almost always inevitable. In fact, my personal Top 5 – TOOL, Dave Matthews Band, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Smashing Pumpkins – is united by their collective tendency to evolve over time. Some had smoother transitions than others – TOOL and Trane are/were smoother overall than Miles – but each one’s arc can be heard as one sonic narrative, with each new phase or “sound” including both an element of the “core” sound and an aspect of picking up where they last left off (even if it’s somewhat of a reaction to a previous approach).

Like the aforementioned Top 5, Radiohead also continually evolves. Succinctly describing their most recent release, I would say: King of Limbs is Radiohead’s next logical step after In Rainbows. Now, that doesn’t really mean anything to the passive fan, but those familiar with the whole Radiohead catalogue should understand that this denotes: more effects and electronics, less traditional instrumentation and form, more experimentation. Radiohead started with a definitive early-90s anthem (“Creep”), pivoted with a slightly more progressive but wildly commercially successful album (OK Computer), then forcefully proceeded down the avenue of electronic experimentation (Kid A through present). I could understand someone enjoying OK Computer in somewhat of a vacuum and being dumbfounded by King or even Amnesiac (these two are probably my favorites, FYI). But, if you were to listen to all of their albums in succession, you would most likely hear a single band slowly transforming.

A primary grievance is that the new album is too down-tempo. Did anyone really expect an anthemic rocker after the last few albums? Seriously? Many await another OK Computer. I can understand that to a certain extent, however that was their third album. King of Limbs is their EIGHTH studio album. They’re far beyond that stage, for good or ill. For those who felt betrayed, the “betrayal” occurred not in 2011, but rather gradually over the last decade. Similarly, Miles and Trane continually evolved. Those who expected Coltrane to play “Locomotion” in ’66 or ’67 were gravely mistaken, and likely walked out of performances and stopped buying his albums. He had moved beyond the blues – moved beyond swing – by that point. And was it that he no longer liked “that old stuff”? No. He simply transcended all earlier endeavors and was progressing beyond jazz to something greater. Returning to “Syeeda’s Song Flute” would have been a stifling distraction. The same is happening here.

Art, and the artists who create it, evolve. Just like everything else. You don’t have to like everything an artist does, not by a long shot. However, at the same token, don’t be surprised if, after 5 or 10 or 20 years, they have moved on to a different place.