More than 20 years into their careers, Thom Yorke and Radiohead are still one of the greatest live bands in the world, as they proved again last night at Lollapalooza 2016. Returning to the Lolla stage for the first time since 2008, the group captivated fans with a stellar set of old favorites, obscure gems, and new material.
Performing in front of a shockingly sparse crowd (evidently all the kids went to see Major Lazer instead), Radiohead opened with three songs from their new album A Moon Shaped Pool. While “Daydreaming” retained its atmospheric beauty, both “Burn the Witch” and “Ful Stop” sounded more fierce, with heavier guitars than those on the studio versions.
When the group finally delved into its back catalog, the results were glorious, starting with two of the best tracks from 2003's underappreciated Hail to the Thief album. “2+2=5,” originally a reference to George W. Bush, took on a somber new meaning as its message about electoral indifference (“You have not been paying attention!”) seemed to apply to a new presidential candidate during this particular election cycle. Meanwhile, with its killer bass fuzz sound, “Myxomatosis” has always been the most underrated song in the band's history and it was powerful again on this night. “It's good to be angry sometimes,” Yorke said after the song, even though he seemed to be in a joyous mood all evening, dancing around like a maniac and tossing out playful banter.
Nearly every album from Radiohead's career was well-represented as Yorke and company squeezed 24 songs into two hours. The OK Computer highlights began with the dark “Climbing Up the Walls,” which then moved directly to the opposite end of the spectrum with “No Surprises.” A blue-purple hue took over the stage during the latter while a xylophone created the music box-like twinkling that powers the song.
From a production standpoint, this Radiohead show was similar to many we've seen in the past, with no major bells and whistles aside from split-screen close-up images of band members on the video screens. Familiar songs were in some cases given slightly new arrangements, or just different vocal deliveries from Yorke.
The artistic high point was the seamless transition from “Everything in Its Right Place” directly into “Idioteque.” Both songs took on a strong dance vibe while heavy doses of echoing vocal loops made the songs even weirder than they had been before. The band sent the crowd home happy with “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” during the encore. Neither song has changed much over the years, nor should they – they are classics.
This year's Radiohead performance was better than their 2008 effort, which over the years has inexplicably grown to legendary status but was so dull for long stretches that Yorke at one point told that crowd “You're all so quiet out there,” because the band wasn't inspiring any enthusiasm. There were no such concerns this year; Radiohead delivered the sort of entertaining, professional set that a festival headliner should.
Radiohead Lollapalooza 2016 Set List:
1. Burn the Witch
3. Ful Stop
6. My Iron Lung
7. Climbing Up the Walls
8. No Surprises
9. Pyramid Song
12. The Numbers
13. The Gloaming
14. Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
15-16. Everything in Its Right Place > Idioteque
17. There There
18. Let Down
19. Present Tense
20. Paranoid Android
23. Street Spirit
24. Karma Police