SRO-2.jpg
Dave Lake
John Van Deusen of the Lonely Forest does his best Thom Yorke.
Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs Radiohead

The Moore

Saturday, Feb. 18

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Seattle Rock Orchestra Celebrates Classic Radiohead Albums on the Heels of a New One

SRO-2.jpg
Dave Lake
John Van Deusen of the Lonely Forest does his best Thom Yorke.
Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs Radiohead

The Moore

Saturday, Feb. 18

It's almost as if Scott Teske, the brainchild of the Seattle Rock Orchestra, has the ability to see the future. How else to explain the impeccable timing of his latest tribute, which finds his volunteer orchestra performing Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer just a single day after Thom Yorke and co. surprised fans by releasing their latest album, The King of Limbs, via download. As the 'Head brain trust debates whether Limbs pushes the band further into the future, they can simultaneously look back and reminisce about the first time they heard "Fake Plastic Trees" while a 50-piece orchestra performs it.

Because Radiohead writes such textured and nuanced songs, their material translates well to an orchestra, particularly the less-ambient double-shot of mid-'90s genius that is The Bends and OK Computer. Teske, who played bass on the evening's two dozen songs, and his backing band (three guitars, keyboards, and a drummer) did an impressive job of recreating Radiohead's recordings live, with the orchestra's strings, horns, and chorus adding layers of texture on top. The orchestra played each record in sequence and in its entirety, with an intermission between the two. The ensemble sounded best--and collected the most applause--on the more rocking songs in the set, like "Just" and "Paranoid Android," which found an army of bows moving up and down in unison as the songs hit their crescendos.

A group of eight singers--including Jon Auer of the Posies, Rachel Flotard of Visqueen, and John Van Deusen of the Lonely Forest--sang Yorke's parts, each singer tackling three songs apiece. Tom Beecham of the Raggedy Anns channeled Yorke most fully, in both voice and performance. Also memorable was Noah Gunderson, who broke out of the folky sounds of his band The Courage to showcase the power of his scream on the end of "Climbing Up the Walls," even knocking over a mike stand into a member of the orchestra. "I'm so sorry," he said afterward, smiling.

Seeing the SRO is a fun night out. Chances are if you're there in the first place, you already love the songs, so even if they weren't being performed by a massive orchestra, they'd still sound great. But add a rotating roster of talented local singers, terrific arrangements, and a 50-piece band, and it's a killer combo. And though the whole performance comes off seamlessly, the show is obviously a major undertaking, so kudos to Teske and his volunteers, who manage to fill each performance with equal parts passion and fun. The SRO will perform a tribute to Queen on May 20 at the Moore.

BTW: There was little difference between the look of the audience Saturday and the group of musicians who performed onstage. The median age of both was somewhere around 30 and equal parts male and female.

She'd still be sexy even if it were true: "I think I got a lazy eye from singing that one," said Rachel Flotard after her second song.

 
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