radiohead-3keyyyy.jpg
Laura Musselman
Radiohead

KeyArena

Monday, April 9

1. THEESatisfaction and just about every hip-hop act could learn something from Radioheaed's relentless musicianship, augmented with synthetic

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Radiohead Is a Jam Band, and 5 Other Things I Learned About Earth's Biggest Band, Last Night at KeyArena

radiohead-3keyyyy.jpg
Laura Musselman
Radiohead

KeyArena

Monday, April 9

1. THEESatisfaction and just about every hip-hop act could learn something from Radioheaed's relentless musicianship, augmented with synthetic noisemakers. I got mildly grilled a couple weeks ago for suggesting that Seattle rap duo THEESatisfaction's set would have been elevated by the addition of a live band (the duo didn't even have a DJ, they had a laptop).

It's not just that Radiohead can afford to enlist backup musicians at will (which they can). It's the way they utilize their personnel - and the way they stretch, musically - that makes them engaging. During "Reckoner," five of the six musicians on stage were playing percussion, and for show opener, "Bloom," half the band was playing some kind of drum kit, kicking off a night in which the rhythm section often sounded somewhere between college drumline and Carnival samba band.

Bands that use their MacBooks as backing tracks - and this isn't just directed at hip-hop (we're looking at you, My Morning Jacket) - are leaving musical opportunities on the table. Last week I spoke to McCoy Tyner, the great jazz pianist who played in the John Coltrane Quartet, and is heard on classics such as A Love Supreme (stay tuned for the Q&A on the blog). I asked him how Coltrane liked to be backed up, and he said: "He was very, very confident in terms of what he wanted to do. So, I would give him freedom to do what he wanted. And then he would look at me, and that means, come on in."

When your rhythm section is a PowerBook, you can't tell 'em to "come on in." You get the same thing every night, which goes the same place every night. Radiohead, on the other hand, used their recordings as a framework, a launching pad for a completely different product: a live show.

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Laura Musselman
2. For Radiohead fans, seeing the band Is like Christmas morning: They know they're going to get something, they just don't know what.

3. Radiohead may be the only band on the planet with 8 records that can entertain an arena full of people by pulling from any portion of its catalog.

4. Radiohead fans (OK, the ones in my section) are really polite. One apologized for standing up because the person in front of him was standing up (I didn't care); another person asked for permission.

radioheadkey2.jpg
Laura Musselman
5. Pearl Jam's Mike McCready is a Radiohead fan. That is, if it was the REAL Mike McCready who was sitting in front of us(ish). Which was kind of surreal considering I was sitting in almost the exact seat I was in for Pearl Jam's last stand at the Key.

6. Radiohead Is a Jam Band. And a restrained one at that. They're masters of tension and release. Just about every one of their songs opens with groove. On stage last night, they vamped on those grooves, digging in until the mood was thick, satisfying, frustrating, and teasing in the same tunes. They never overstayed their welcome: they just came in, re-invented their famous tunes, and walked off stage like they'd done it in their sleep.

The band played with an effortlessness and grace that conveyed a sense of appreciation and relief. They were both 100 percent engaged in the performance, while at the same time in complete control, playing the songs as if it were for the first and last time.

 
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