Last night, I went to see Radiohead with Adam and my brother Brandon. This is a band that I have always wanted to see live, but the dang Brits don't come to this country too often. When they have come, their people have continually refused to coordinate with my people. It's very frustrating. The past few shows have consistently coincided with graduations, weddings, and vacations. So, back in May, I diligently went to the website waiting for show dates and ticket sales to be announced, having decided to skip weddings as required. I still only managed to snag lawn seats. During this process, I was briefly elated to find that one did not have to use "Ticketmaster" to order the tickets. The elation soon frittered to annoyance once again, for "Live Nation" is just as evil as Ticketmaster, charging REE-DICK-ULOUS fees for "convenience" (it isn't) and "handling" (WTF??) The "face value" of said tickets is $39.50. The actual cost? $51.42!! Seriously, officer, I have the receipt to prove it.
Hmm...I seem to have gone a wee bit off topic.
Radiohead. Was Awesome. Yet, I can't help admitting that I was disappointed with certain aspects of the show. I have long been fascinated with this band because I cannot discern the instruments from the electronica, and I initially had little desire to see them live because I figured they would be either unable to replicate the studio effects, or they would be playing over pre-recorded material. I can listen to pre-recorded stuff at any time. Then they released a live album "I Might Be Wrong" which was amazing. It was like Radiohead covering Radiohead - no, they aren't able to replicate the studio effects. Instead, they play out the effects, twist them around, lose them altogether, and add new ones. I became really excited to see how this was done.
They managed to blow my mind with innovative renditions of their own material, somehow making happy songs into sad ones, and challenging me to think again about lyrics I thought I understood. The tone of a song and its delivery make an enormous impact on the way it is perceived. In some cases, it was like hearing a song for the first time, yet knowing all the words.
However, I still cannot tell you how it is done. The set consists of glittery streamers which reflect the light and hang like a curtain above and around the band. Add a few clouds of smoke in front, and the veil is complete. Of course, we were too far away to see the band up close, but I often look to the large screens typically set up at amphitheaters to observe the various musicians' fingering and technique from afar. In this case, however, they set the cameras to zoom in on a specific spot - like on four keys of the keyboard or on Thom Yorke's microphone. The screen was then split in various portions between the cameras. The effect, combined with the lighting and smoke, was very artistic and beautiful in its own right - like watching a music video live. But it was like this for the whole show, and I found myself trying desperately to shift my eyes to the stage and back to the screen, just to verify whether the screen did in fact represent the live action before me, or if it truly was a music video. Every now and then, I got a little snippet, like a zoom into the hand motions on the strings, which I was able to correlate to a sound reaching my eardrums. It just left me wanting more. I appreciate the "choreography" which obviously went into this production. But there are a lot of people in the audience who just want to see some talented people play some instruments, and those people were likely disappointed.
It occurred to me that this could be intentional. Maybe I am not meant to know how, and maybe if I did find out, I'd be even more disappointed. This happened to me before - I was very excited to see if Keller Williams actually had four hands, or if he somehow managed to play the amazing riffs with just two. Turns out, he plays a ton of loops and then plays over them. At one point, music was coming from the speakers as Keller paused for a drink of water. Apparently, using all the fancy loop tools does take some talent, but I was very disappointed with the show. I got what I wished for. (By the way, Leo Kottke actually does have four hands, I think.) Anyway, so maybe Radiohead has something to hide. Or maybe they have overly ambitious set designers. But next time I see them, I think I will need better seats.