Sunday, May 18, 2008

Radiohead / Liars - Live 2008.05.14 Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, St. Louis, Missouri

Band: Radiohead
Venue: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (formerly the UMB Bank Pavilion and before that the Riverport Amphitheatre)
City: St. Louis, Missouri (actually Maryland Heights)
Date: 14 May 2008
Opening Act: Liars

Setlist (thanks to for covering the holes in my memory [Edit 2019.11.13: archived link]):
01. All I Need
02. Jigsaw Falling into Place
03. Airbag
04. 15 Step
05. Nude
06. Kid A
07. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
08. The Gloaming
09. You and Whose Army?
10. Idioteque
11. Faust Arp
12. Videotape
13. Everything in Its Right Place
14. Reckoner
15. Optimistic
16. Bangers and Mash
17. Bodysnatchers

Encore 1:
18. Exit Music (for a Film)
19. Myxomatosis
20. My Iron Lung
21. There There
22. Fake Plastic Trees

Encore 2:
23. Pyramid Song
24. House of Cards
25. Paranoid Android

For once, I got a lucky break. Radiohead decided to play eight shows in North America and one happened to be St. Louis. A band that big rarely deigns to approach the Midwest beyond perhaps Chicago, if our uncultured souls are even that lucky. Actually, I think in August they are coming back to the continent for some more shows, but still.

I purchased a lawn ticket, since that came to about $50, compared to an $80 seat and who knows how much the orchestra pit was. The place got packed, and it is a huge venue. There must have been thousands of people there, and I know they were not all St. Louis area residents. I had friends from Kansas, friends from Nebraska, and friends of friends from Illinois there, besides the countless Webster University students I recognized. In the spirit of Radiohead's environmental conscientiousness, I carpooled there with three other friends and came about an hour before the opening band even came on. If I could have, I would have liked to have come even earlier to catch their soundcheck, which apparently included "No Surprises" and a cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me".

Liars came on stage right about 7:00 and played a 40-minute set. Some of my peers were not appreciative, but some were, myself included. While I might know little about their music, I enjoyed their noisy, danceable indie rock thing. A shame that no one was dancing... not the right venue for that, though. I was sitting, like most people, but many people were still walking around, finding seats, and generally milling about. I was getting irritated every time someone in my line of sight stood up and blocked my view, but it ended up being for naught, since as soon as Radiohead hit the stage after a 40-minute break, everyone stood up instantly.

So, I'm not going to elaborate over every last detail, but I'll mention what I thought was interesting. They played for over two hours and did two encores. They played every song off Disc 1 of In Rainbows, one song off Disc 2, and about two or three from each other album except Pablo Honey. They opened with "All I Need", which I thought was an interesting choice, but as one of my favorites of In Rainbows, I welcomed it.

Then came "Jigsaw Falling into Place", for which a video began playing behind the band. I couldn't tell if it was live or pre-recorded, but they had video for most of the rest of the show, and I'm pretty sure the rest was all live. The video was basically five screens mostly focusing on each of the five band members. And the lighting – it was awesome. Seriously the best lighting I've ever seen at a concert – there were all these shafts around the stage, LED lights in back, and bigger spread lights to swamp the whole stage. Each light rig created distinct colors and combined created a strong feeling of movement. For example, during "The Gloaming", the shafts suddenly shifted to illuminated patterns that made it look like it was raining. It started right when Thom began repeating "They should be ringing", which sounded a lot like "...raining" given the context.

After "Jigsaw", I heard a stray guitar note and knew what they were about to play: "Airbag". It rocked, with Thom Yorke playing sleigh bells and all. "Kid A" was a nice surprise – I expected a couple songs off the album of the same name, but not that one. They ended up playing four from Kid A, including another personal favorite, "Optimistic".

I didn't expect "The Gloaming" or "You and Whose Army?" either, but the latter was great. Then was "Idioteque", a highlight of the evening. Johnny Greenwood moved away from his keyboards and guitars and over to an effects patch board thing, just like could be seen in the old promotional video and SNL performance of the song back in 2000. Fascinating. I still don't know what he's doing – I assume he's adding and removing effects and sounds, but who knows. He could be doing nothing and no one would know the difference and we'd all think it was cool anyway.

After that song, the band members kind of shifted about and some disappeared. Just Thom and Ed O'Brien (I think... might have been Johnny... I was standing pretty far away) remained with acoustic guitars. In their perhaps most ironic moment, the two of them did an acoustic version of a song named after the type of synthesizer featured in the recorded version. (I'm talking about "Faust Arp" here.)

For "Bangers and Mash", the stage hands brought out a kick drum and snare for Thom to beat on to complement Phil Selway's drumming. Later, for "There There", both Johnny and Ed had some extra toms that they beat upon in addition to Phil's full set. Radiohead do like their extra percussion – in addition to some drum loops in some of the latter-day songs, the Kid A-era material often had one of the guitarists rocking a shaker.

"Exit Music (for a Film)" started with just Thom acoustic, barely audible above the chatterings of people waiting for the band to hit the stage for their encore, but once the band came in, it rocked. Colin Greenwood's fuzz bass was great, and he kept it up for the follow-up, "Myxomatosis" (although I think Ed doubled his riff on guitar for the live version). And then they went into "My Iron Lung", which was another song I hadn't expected, but it rocked quite well. I know Ed was using an e-bow for that one, and I suspect he'd been using it on several other songs. (It was quite hard to see the details of what was what, but I'm guessing by what I could see directly and via video.)

"House of Cards" worked great near the end of the set, but "Paranoid Android" made an awesome closer. The band rocked that one, too. I know it is vague and probably not helpful for me to say they rocked every other song, but the band manages to balance softer, dancier, electronic, and really rocking songs, and somehow those moods or whatever come across really well when they do them live. It must be the total atmosphere, with everyone in the audience totally into it all, and the awesome lighting and video display. It really all came together nicely.

This was simply a great concert experience, even if I was sitting so far away that I could barely make out who was who on stage. The band performs solid and makes unique setlists each night. I might not have been treated to the absolute best (no "Lucky" or "National Anthem" or "Down Is the New Up", etc.), but there were several surprises that really made it interesting. And the lights really sealed the deal.

Score: A
[Retrospective Score for Liars: B-]


Mad Dog said...

Oh my god I'm so jealous. I came THIS close to getting tickets for it, but I figured $40~ for something a few squintillion miles from the stage wouldn't have been worth the four hour drive.

For what it's worth, Bangers and Mash is just about the only song on Disc 2 of In Rainbows worth listening to. And personally I'm not a huge fan of the songs that you regretted they didn't play. So I would've had a ball.

Would have. :(

Patti said...

It was a lot of fun! You should have gone - I knew plenty of people that travelled far and wide to see it. They'll come through again somdeday, though.

Anonymous said...

I just saw them at Victoria Park in London, a large park with plenty of room. We easily moved up front, stage left. Stunning show.