The 10 Thoughts I Had During Radiohead Last Night



1. As the shadowy members of Radiohead took their places on the darkened stage, the PA played a live recording of some drone-y, vaguely Eastern-sounding trance music that may or may not have been the Master Musicians of Joujouka. The recording ends with a sound bite of local-girl-made-good Nina Simone telling an interviewer: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.” That, in two words, is the definition of white privilege: no fear. No fear of being beaten, bullied, abused, blackballed or murdered in cold blood live on Facebook by the police for the unspeakable crime of not being white. OK, I will get down from my soapbox now and on with the jokes.

2. When you are guitarist Ed O’Brien, sometimes being in Radiohead means just standing there with your teeth in your mouth watching Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood push buttons and twirl knobs. As with jazz, being in Radiohead is about know what not to play and when not to play it.

3. Their light show is way better than War On Drugs’ light show. To put it another way, if Radiohead’s light show and War On Drugs’ light show ever gets into a West Side Story-style back alley rumble there will be blood. Because when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day. Look it up.

4. In addition to the balletic shafts of pure white light of said light show, there was a giant moon-shaped-pool-looking screen behind the band upon which a flickering cubist montage of band member close-ups danced subliminally, handily solving the eternal riddle of how to make pasty middle-aged Brits pushing buttons and turning knobs visually exciting. Can’t speak for the other 21,000 or so people in attendance last night, but over in Section 113, we were impressed.

5. ‘Idioteque’ is the word that comes to mind when Thom Yorke does his man-bunned dance-like-nobody’s-watching thing even though everybody is watching. On a related note — and I say all this with unconditional love and all due respect for the band’s art and legacy — Yorke is really lucky this Radiohead thing took off because while he may be a genius-level singer/songwriter, as a tambourine player I am sorry to say he couldn’t even get hired by Josie and the Pussy Cats.

6. Jonny Greenwood is like a brunette Brian Jones with better cheekbones in that he has that same mystical ability to pick up just about any instrument and conjure some magic out of it. Which is why he is allowed to comb his hair any way he bloody well pleases.

7. Speaking of which, there is an old Jonny Greenwood joke that goes: When Jonny Greenwood goes to the barber he says, in the Borscht Belt voice of Triumph The Insult Dog, ‘Just a little off the bottom…OF MY NOSE!’ and then they both break into howling laughter that, unnervingly, lasts a few seconds longer than “Stairway To Heaven” start to finish. In the ensuing silence, Jonny and the barber exchange knowing nods and then he exits wordlessly stage left. Hilarity ensues.

8. Phil Selway is a motherfucker on the drums. There is no higher compliment. Then there’s that mysterious nameless second bald guy on percussion who just showed up a couple years ago and never left. Lucky for them, because best I can tell the double-bald headed drummer thing is completely unprecedented in the entire recorded history of rock n’ roll.

9. Colin Greenwood has the roundest eyes in rock n’ roll. Look, I don’t want to get into an argument about this.

10. There is an unconfirmed rumor going around that Paul Thomas Anderson was in town filming both Philly nights of Radiohead’s tour for his next movie. Even though I have this on good authority, I saw no evidence of this from my vantage point in section 113. However, I so very badly want this to be true I am willingly suspending my disbelief for this one. — JONATHAN VALANIA