After a long semi-lost journey, through the better part of lower Manhattan and even longer lines once we finally found the right pier for our ferry trip, we arrived to Liberty State Park on a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon. The park was set up overlooking the Manhattan skyline and was absolutely enormous with three full stages, tons of booths, and a great deal of open space. I was there in time for some of the Roots set and Kings of Leon, both of which are fine groups indeed. Just as dusk started to settle and the skyline started to light up, the main stage started to fill in anticipation for the headliners.
After many false cheers, the five guys started to roll onstage to a huge roar and an amazing backdrop of a series of lights that resembled a scattered computer screen. Drummer Phil Selway started with the drum part to "Reckoner" off In Rainbows
. They looped that for a little bit and rolled into the song beautifully, to a surprisingly crisp and clear sound mix. They kicked it up with "15 Step", then jammed it into "National Anthem."
The light show was just stunning, and it flowed with the music very nicely. They played every single song from In Rainbows
, which was surprising, but not the least bit disappointing. The two highlights of that bunch for me were - "Nude", which was recreated with such subtle beauty by Thom Yorke's amazing live vocal range and nuances; and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place", which Johnny Greenwood reworked with a very driving electric guitar part, that turned a great album song into a rocking sonic force live.
Interspersed in the early part of the set, were some intruiging choices focusing on lesser known ambient moody songs like "Kid A" and "The Gloaming". They did "No Surprises" completely spot on (even more so than other times I've heard it live), and was oddly comforting hearing the crowd roar after the line "Bring down the government, They don't, they don't speak for us". Completely rocked out "The Bends" and went into the song "Bangers & Mash" from In Rainbows 2
, with Yorke rocking out on a side drum set the whole song and handling a very up-tempo second drum part with relative ease and enthusiasm.
Near the end of their first set, they did "Exit Music", which was really the highlight of the show. When Yorke opened with it, the crowd was absolutely dead silent (for the first time that whole day/night). Even from way back where we were... and a perfect summer night breeze, you could actually hear the leaves from the trees rustling. The thought that you could completely silence a group of 50,000 or so New Yorker/Jersey folk and command their undivided attention is mindblowing. It's really inspiring to think that the sense of empowerment that music can have over people is still alive and well in its purest form.
The encores were incredible with surprise showings of "Airbag", and "Planet Telex" (a song I haven't heard them play live since perhaps the 90's). "Fake Plastic Trees" was also a great treat, and another testament to the "wall of sound" from guitars that made up The Bends/OK Computer
I've seen Radiohead live maybe close to 20 times (since their 1995 The Bends
tour show at Saratoga Winners in Latham) and consistently come from their shows in true awe of their ability to utilize all five members' genius talents to build upon and ulitimately surpass their amazing studio landmark recordings. This show was definitely in the top 2 or 3 of all the shows I've seen from them, and adds another layer of cement solidifying the fact that they've been the best live band in the world for the past 12 or so years.
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