Radiohead don't come to America very often -- maybe once a record release -- and they certainly don't traverse the Midwest to East Troy, Wisconsin on a regular basis. But tonight, here they were, one of the greatest bands in the world, gracing the hills of Alpine Valley. The hill acts as a natural amphitheater and most of the "seating" is actually a grassy area where most stand and dance (awkwardly). The outdoor setting was perfect for the event -- what better way to enjoy a sunset than listening to "Where I End and You Begin"?
Radiohead opened the night with a couplet of songs from Hail to the Thief: "2 2=5" and "Sit Down. Stand Up." The explosive finales got most of the white-boy crowd to partake in either some circular hippy-dancing or awkward head-bobbing. They continued the night by playing some of their favorites: "Paranoid Android," "Just," "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," "There There," "Fake Plastic Trees," "Idioteque" and "Karma Police." As noticed by most people who should've left their ticket for someone who likes post-Pablo Honey Radiohead, "Creep" was left off of the set list.
Critics and fans alike have commented repeatedly on Radiohead's apparent self-consciousness; they recorded one of the best albums of all-time in OK Computer and then completely trashed the idea to create a reaction to that album in Kid A. It worked, but what if it hadn't? Radiohead was sick of being Radiohead, so they duped their fans (especially the mainstream ones, the "Karma Police fans") by creating a record that would rarely see airplay. It's also evident in some of their commentary that this is a band that has some problems with identity. But tonight, they were not self-conscious in any right. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood rocked out on songs that weren't even upbeat ("Sail to the Moon"), his long hair flying everywhere and making for a great slow-mo movie for the big-screens. Drummer Phil Selway jazzed up almost every song with a more active drumbeat than in the album cuts, happily bouncing his bald head behind the matching cymbals. Bassist Colin Greenwood even partook in a few jigs of his own. But the show belonged to one man: Thom Yorke. Yorke danced like I've never seen a short, skinny, lazy-eyed Brit dance before. He break-danced, he shuffled, he shook, he swayed; he did anything he could to keep the music going. At times he reached out to the crowd for their participation, and at times he put up his arms, directing the orchestra behind him.
For the first hour of the set, Thom said exactly three things: "Thanks," "Thank you," and "Thank you very much." Later, however, he warmed up and even told a few jokes; for example, "This is a song about peace, love, and all that bullshit -- we're really just hippies with short hair" in reference to "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" and "This is a dirty song for dirty people" for "Myxamatosis." The highlight of the night, however, came in two parts: first, Thom was given the grand piano for the first song in the first encore, "You and Whose Army?" As he played and sang the provocative lines of the song, "Come one, come all / you think you drive me crazy / you and whose army? / you and your cronies," he raised his eyebrows into the fish-lens camera in a comical attempt to provoke the audience. He was making a caricature; he was mocking himself. Self-aware, but hardly self-conscious. The second highlight was during "Idioteque." Yorke danced furiously, running in circles around his band mates at one time, break dancing at another. It takes balls to do that in the comfort of your own home, much less in front of thousands of watching people. He single-handedly got almost the entire crowd moving -- quite an accomplishment, considering some of the people there (nerds, nerds, nerds).
Everyone has their perception of the entity that is Radiohead, but Radiohead convinced everyone -- for at least two hours -- to just dance and enjoy the music. After an hour and half of music and then two encores, Yorke and co. had complete control over thousands of people, armed only with sheer musical honesty and earnestness. One of the most famous bands in the world played East Troy, Wisconsin like it was their hometown of Oxford, and for their brilliant energy, they will forever have my respect.
10.0 -- Flawless
9.5-9.9 -- Nearly perfect
9.0-9.4 -- Essential
8.5-8.9 -- Spectacular
8.0-8.4 -- Highly recommended
7.5-7.9 -- Impressive
7.0-7.4 -- Very solid
6.5-6.9 -- Consistent, but not without its flaws
6.0-6.4 -- Enjoyable
5.5-5.9 -- Better than average; not many standout qualities
5.0-5.4 -- Nothing special, but nice enough
4.0-4.9 -- Listenable; only a few enjoyable moments
3.0-3.9 -- Not worth the price
2.0-2.9 -- Pitiful
1.0-1.9 -- Terrifying
0.1-0.9 -- Redefines awful
0.0 -- Avoid it like the plague