The thing about Radiohead is that they're never done with their work. You might think OK Computer, Kid A, and Hail to the Thief are pretty perfect albums, but they think otherwise. That's why they're constantly tinkering and tweaking their music – with remixes, in videos, and especially onstage.
In concert, Radiohead take what you know about their songs and rework them – sometimes drastically, sometimes with just a shift here or there – until they're tighter, tougher, and most often better.
Last year's The King of Limbs is a somewhat difficult album in the band's mostly terrific catalog. It's deep, complex, and demands way more from listeners than most artists would ever even think to ask from their fans.
But scrap whatever you know and however you feel about that record. Last night at Blossom Music Center, Radiohead reinvented The King of Limbs, tearing down and building back up a huge chunk of the album's songs.
They weren't unrecognizable in their new forms, but the songs – constructed in the studio on a foundation of loops played back by the band as instruments – achieved new depth onstage, as the group explored the album, as well as plenty of older favorites, with wide-eyed wonder.
Opening with “Bloom,” the lead song on The King of Limbs, the two-hour show was a rhythmic revision of the band’s past few albums, thanks to an additional drummer onstage (Portishead’s Clive Deamer) who injected nearly every song in the set with a steady percussive roll that made the band sound more soulful than they ever have.
It was also Radiohad at their most Radiohead last night, with frontman Thom Yorke doing that full-body spazz thing he does, the rest of the band mad-scientist focused on the music, and a spectacular set bathed in lights and videos that could double as a future-minded modern-art installation.
But it was clearly the music that drove the show – from “Kid A” and an intense “Climbing Up the Walls” to “There There” and a positively electric “Idioteque.”
While the set was heavy on cuts from The King of Limbs and In Rainbows, there was a handful from the pre-Kid A era, including the show-ending twofer “Exit Music (For a Film)” and “Paranoid Android,” as well as some post-Limbs songs like “Staircase” and “Identikit.”
Is this Radiohead at their peak? Perhaps live, even if their detail-oriented art-rock doesn’t leave much room for spontaneity onstage. Still, when it comes to connecting art with a soulful pulse, few bands in the history of popular music have done it better than Radiohead. —Michael Gallucci
I Might Be Wrong
Like Spinning Plates
Morning Mr. Magpie
Climbing Up the Walls
House of Cards
Give Up the Ghost
Exit Music (For a Film)