Radiohead at Austin City Limits Music Festival: 9-30-16 Setlist and Review

  I'm very aware of our demographic and that most of our fans love "jam band" music but I'll leave with a quote from Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead that I think fits this situation.  "If you want to hear the songs the same way they were played on the album, go listen to that. Don't expect us to recreate the album on stage, that's boring."
 If you care about this band, you'll read anything about them. If you don't really like Radiohead, there isn't enough ink in the world to make you care. So I don't really mind that this is a little late for a review.  This is more than a review though. As much as I hate to write it, Radiohead is a political band.  They don't write about the government specifically, well, sometimes they do. Still, mostly it's a lurching, negative, creepy presence in the background of all their songs. This new album the band is touring feels like a breakup album. Thom just left his partner of three decades and all the band members are off doing other stuff. The band has repeatedly said they are done with albums. This album is a wonderful mellow album full of atmospheric strings and loops and distorted vocals. Lyrically, it is a very soft-spoken, dystopian set of lyrics that have never sounded so good while being completely misanthropic.
"Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers
This is a low flying panic attack" -"Burn the Witch"
The show opened with a Nina Simone' quote. “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear.”  This quote followed by the tune "Burn the Witch" started the show of with a sense of the foreboding that mirrored what this country is experiencing. It's hard to pull the situation this country is in right now from people's minds and just enjoy the show.  I noticed at the ACL fest, that I wasn't sure that the message was getting through. This show was an amazing experience. From intro to encore, the show was simply wonderful. From the scaled-back light show and double drumming to the animation of Thom Yorke and the concentration that J. Greenwood shows as he plays three instruments at the same time.  
The songs that have sarcasm or a pointed meaning were being sung straight-ahead with no irony by the Texas crowd. When Yorke sneers, "God loves his children,yeeeaaahh" the crowd responded like it was part of a lullaby, not the middle section of a dystopian epic about the loss of humanity and the inanity of cocaine-fueled "party" people. Maybe it was a function of being at a festival but I couldn't help but feel that Thom kept wanting to let loose on what's going on politically in our country in this show but owing to the Texas festival crowd, didn't feel like it was his place. He replaced personal comments with plenty of tracks off of "Hail to the Thief" and "OK Computer" that let his stance be known. This country is living in interesting times and artists make it a better place. I saw some other decent acts but I went for Radiohead and this was supposed to be a straightforward review but if you like the band, you already know they put on a transcendent show. You know they play amazing live shows that they use to unpack and stretch out their songs.  This was a wonderfully creepy concert because I couldn't tell how much of what the band has said has really sunk into the audience that was there. If you get a chance to see this band and you've never seen them before, do yourself a favor and check them out. However, I don't know if the ACL festival crowd was really feeling what the band was giving them. Maybe because the other closer was Major Lazer and people chose between dance music and Thom and co. Hopefully, I was reading the crowd wrong but if I wasn't, the way the crowd and the people around me enjoyed/took in this made me nervous. As much as I loved this show and this band, it's scary that's my takeaway. 

Greg Heffelfinger


Radiohead "Paranoid Android" ACL Festival 2016

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