Last Tuesday, the man blogged that he and his buddies (Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco) put a band together for fun and felt like playing some shows in LA. The outside world was instantly alerted via blog/tweet/text tidal wave. Tickets were made available less than a day later. And in one browser’s refresh, sold out.
Thom Yorke, arguably the most vital and prolific artist of our generation (try me), can do that. He can rally four master musicians for a “jam” at the Orpheum Theatre. He can (generously) invite relative unknown art-house locals (and appropriately named), Lucky Dragons, to open. He can turn his own solo album from skeletal, electronic ice, to full-blooded, freewheeling fire. He can unite music nerds with Hollywood’s elite** under one long, standing ovation, before the show even starts.
Yes, spectacle lived in the basic idea of Radiohead’s frontman taking cues from the bassline of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s greatest asset. It easily could have sorta-worked (a common fate for ‘supergroups’), and we’d all still walk away with something memorable. Hardly possible though, understanding what these guys consider “par”. Thom may have played it off to press that they’d be short and rough, but who really believed him? We got The Eraser from start to finish, an intimate Yorke solo set, and a grooving finale’ of material, old and new. At no point was anyone ‘off’ or did anything sound like they hadn’t written it together, 10 years ago.
To think, all this time, The Eraser was a sprawling dance-punk album in disguise. Its opening track sent a current up the theatre walls that was probably never equaled. It simply, shocked. Feeding off each other, Flea’s crouching shimmy paired eerily well with Yorke’s piano (and later, Yorke’s famous kid-tweaking-out-alone-in-his-bedroom dance moves). Dueling percussion cracked each track’s former synthetic shell wide open. And Nigel (who is to Radiohead what George Martin was to The Beatles) brought it all together sonically with a keyboard/mixer and some guitar shaping of his own. Bottom line: live instrumentation wins.
Serpent-charming “Skip Divided” showcased Flea on melodica (and Yorke on sex). Suddenly-funky “Harrowdown Hill” let Flea do what he does best, go slap-wild. And “Cymbal Rush” sealed it.
Yorke came back alone and contemplative with a few stunning new ones. The band then returned for a closing punch. Yorke dedicated “Paperbag Writer”, a Radiohead b-side (and personal favorite) to Colin Greenwood, who was in attendance – sort of his way of saying: yes, I know Flea is owning it right now, but you’re still our bassist, k love you
It was hard not to think the last two songs, some of the newest in the bunch, were composed with a translation like this in mind.
Per usual, I could go on…here’s the setlist (linked to videos):
01 The Eraser
03 The Clock
04 Black Swan
05 Skip Divided
06 Atoms For Peace
07 And It Rained All Night
08 Harrowdown Hill
09 Cymbal Rush
Encore w/ band:
13 Paperbag Writer
14 Judge, Jury & Executioner*
15 The Hollow Earth
16 Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses
How it started (not my video or bro banter):