19 years man, 19 years. The first time I heard the ch’ga ch’ga before the guitar starts wailing in Creep, I was 13 and only just started to learn how to cream in my pants. For me, Radiohead are better than The Beatles, The Stones, better than Nirvana and whatever else there is. I used to send my friends annoying emails about various band related tidbits I’m sure they didn’t bother to read but I might’ve introduced one or two to ’em that way. I was a dumbass, still am.

I grew up with Radiohead in a way, from relentlessly belting out Fake Plastic Trees and High & Dry to the stuff they introduced me to (Jeff Buckley, The Fall, Aphex Twin, Tortoise, Thomas Pynchon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Can, Noam Chomsky… basically, a lot of stuff I don’t know much about) and the way they pivoted the role of technology in my life. Radiohead came around when the internet did, more or less and with it, came the ability to scour information across the globe and download free music. I learned to search on Yahoo! and AltaVista. Radiohead and porn taught me how to use the internet. I even made my first ever web purchase with my mom’s credit card for a backpack and some clothes from waste.co.uk. I also did a lot of graphic doodling on Photoshop by trying to combine Stanley Donwood’s work during the OKC era with stuff from Bape and the graffiti / vector line drawing shapey style of the times. A lot of it was shit. One Apple ad-esque image of the band was used as a bookmark/flyer for some church related personality test event gig. I was also obsessed with the themes that played out in OKC. Depression, paranoia and the bleak outlook of a human dystopia kinda took a disturbing hold on me but then I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Somehow or other, I wasn’t anticipating this as much as I should’ve been on the day itself. I remember missing out entirely on the pre-sale and then managing to get myself 4 tickets the next round, furiously clicking away the second the sale went live. I originally planned to go with 2 housemates and sell the last ticket to fund a small car but it went to my girl instead, who came along despite being a non fan. I think I was just getting too old or something because my mind was focused on work and fixing all the little things in life at the mo.

Someone tried to bum a ticket off me as I leave the collection office. I stop him mid sentence with a snarky no. Then I have a bowl of ramen at Gumshara before some dessert at Meetfresh, totally skipping out on the opening act, some dude named after a shoe. Anyway, we get into the Sydney Entertainment center and we’re like at the back but I’m not complaining, it’s Radiohead and I’m finally getting to see them live. Thom Yorke is a tiny person I think, like 2cm tall. He still manages to dance like he does in Lotus Flower or retarded-like as one friend so eloquently put it. By the way, the t-shirts look like shit nowadays.

They bust out with Bloom, one of the stronger, easy to like tracks on The King Of Limbs and think to myself that Thom’s voice is just as brilliant as I first thought it was way back when. Then they break out with Lucky and the nostalgia pangs hit and I realize how old I am because I still think it sounds so modern and cool. In mid set, I get the chills when they bring out the piano and it’s just Jonny and Thom doing Videotape. It sounds remarkably like Pyramid Song a bit later. They also played Planet Telex (woah) and Paranoid Android plus some new ones like Staircase and Full Stop. Here’s the full setlist.

  1. Bloom
  2. Lucky
  3. Morning Mr. Magpie
  4. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
  5. Myxomatosis
  6. The Gloaming
  7. Separator
  8. Staircase
  9. Videotape
  10. Nude
  11. Full Stop
  12. Lotus Flower
  13. There There
  14. Planet Telex
  15. Feral
  16. Bodysnatchers

Encore:

  1. Give Up the Ghost
  2. Pyramid Song
  3. These Are My Twisted Words
  4. Reckoner
  5. Paranoid Android

Encore 2:

  1. 15 Step
  2. Everything in Its Right Place

Encore 3:

  1. Idioteque

The show was pretty cool, replete with these video screens that were suspended above the band and could be reconfigured to various heights and angles and positions. Most of the time, they just played an intermittent transmission of different details of different band members at different points, like Thom singing and a guitar being plucked or drums getting hit etc but it wasn’t like a constant stream. It kinda felt a lot like the music and the complex, shifting, claustrophobic beat. At one point all the screens faced downwards and pulsed a bright white light downwards on the band and you just see the rather undecorated stage and then the lights come on behind on the mega screen with some wavey distorted noise thing.

But regardless of how I felt before the show, I came away thinking I’d just ticked off one item from the top 3 on my bucket list. I’ve finally caught Radiohead live and I felt like I’m 17 again, albeit with a lot less energy, some lower back pain and extremely reticent. Ok maybe I felt like I was 70. They played like 2.5 hours or something like that, with 3 encores. Not a lotta bands do that. They also didn’t talk much. It was like straight down to business. Thom muttered something about Free Tibet and maybe uttered a hello or how you going like thrice maybe. Just straight into the music and in no way was the performance hampered at all, it was just sheer professionalism and just perfect. I think the paper reviewed them as masterful. I thought similarly, that they’re already at the peak of their powers and they can just bust out whatever, whenever because they’ve been doing it for so long. But how many bands can claim to do it like they have, constantly changing directions and maybe having a bump here or there but still making music that keeps people engaged and delighted. How many bands can go 19 years and still be relevant, ever more so than before?

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