Event: Radiohead live in concert
Date: November 17, 2012 (Saturday)
Venue: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
It’s no secret that I like my regular stints down to Singapore to catch a good act performing live. Travelling any further than that has been, thus far, mere wanderlust talk: to catch Summer Sonic in Japan, to revel in the famous Glastonbury in the UK, and to drink in Sigur Ros in Iceland.
Maybe I was getting tired of it just being Singapore. Maybe I wanted something different for a change. Maybe I wanted to do something ‘crazy’. So, when Radiohead announced their Australian shows back in February (a few months after hearing their show in Taipei sold out within minutes), I thought, why the hell not?
It was a chance to experience a different concert crowd in another country as well, and may I just say that I love the Australian concert crowd. Everyone was so well-behaved, it made the better part of Malaysian and Singaporean concert goers seem barbaric.
Everyone made the most of their money’s worth for a live show. They do not hold random chit chats with their friends when the performers were at it onstage, and there was not a sea of beaming smart phone screens in the air throughout the show. Occasional ones, perhaps, to snap a quick shot or so, but overall, everyone just reveled in the live concert experience, instead of busying themselves recording the show and missing it out live.
Everyone was really there to enjoy the concert and the music, and more importantly, they were all respectful to other concert goers, and don’t get in each other’s hair.
Weeks leading up to the concert, I came across the stage setting for Radiohead’s concert through glimpses of photos unintentionally, and for someone jakun like me, I was more than excited to see it all live. Besides the floor to ceiling LED back screen, they had about twelve LED flatscreens hung off the ceiling, suspended in midair like fallen shards of glasses magnified, frozen in time. For every song, these screens would change formations, either at random, or that would best suit the mood of the song, reflective against the band members: lead Thom Yorke, guitarists Colin and Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien, and drummer Philip Selway.
Radiohead eased into this leg of their Kings of Limbs tour with Lotus Flower, something futuristically, psychedelically electronica, and throughout the set, peppered numbers from their latest album like Separator, Feral and Give Up The Ghost. There were also a fair share of beloved tracks from six of their preceding albums, save Pablo Honey, seemingly shying away on purpose from more commercially known songs like High and Dry, No Surprises, Karma Police, and yes, even Creep, prioritising more on the quality of a mindblowing live show, rather than a sing-a-long song fest.
Personally, the beginning of the set was rather monotonous, but as time passed, you could see a slow yet healthy ascension for the overall arch of the night. With sprouts of occasional climaxes from respective songs, like There There, You and Whose Army?, and Paranoid Android, the lights onstage went off with every musical eruption. Oh, you should have seen how everything combusted for Paranoid Android. Deafening sounds, blinding lights… it just eats into you.
Fans seemed to warm up towards the middle, and when they began to react more to the older and more lovable ones, everything just felt more alive in the arena. Not to mention, Yorke feeding off the crowd energy with his animated onstage persona, dancing along to his songs as if thousands of fans were not watching him, and cracking somewhat lame jokes with the locals every once in a while, it was rather entertaining.
Yorke too paced the night with a couple of slow ones like How to Disappear Completely and These are My Twisted Words. When the screens arranged themselves over Yorke, as the white light rained down on him like a God sent, and his words echoed through the speakers: ”Strobe lights and blown speakers / Fireworks and hurricanes / I’m not here, this isn’t happening / I’m not here, I’m not here” - it did feel surreal for me at that point in time. Did I really go all the way to Australia just to see Radiohead? Is this really happening? Am I really here?
It wasn’t long till I was reassured. By the second encore, (why yes, there were two encores!), after toning down from Idioteque with equally soothing but musically distinct Give Up the Ghost and Reckoner, the night fell into this comfortable solace with Everything in Its Right Place. (Cheesy and a tad obvious, but well, still – right). The tousled synth beats, the repetitive haunts of “What was it you tried to say?”, tattooing its presence in your memory. All jumbled up at the wrong time, but coming together to a firm end that seemed appropriately right.
So yes, I did. I travelled all the way to Australia to catch Radiohead live, and their concert that was the last one of their Kings of Limbs tour, which they set out nine months ago. That’s quite special already in its own right, no?
It’s something that I would probably do again. Travel to a new country, and if timing permits, catch a concert there while I am at it. Make the trip all the more worthwhile, I would say. I am beginning to like being caught in the midst of a totally different concert culture, just to see what it is like – crowd wise and production wise. And to know that you are in a strange place where not everyone knows you, that you are akin to a wanted suspect blending into the crowd and living like Romans do. All that is left to entertain is just the music, which is really what it is all about at the end of the day.