October 5, 2009
Thom Yorke At The Orpheum Theatre 10-4-2009
The setting was majestic. In the historic and stunningly gorgeous Orpheum Theatre, with celebrities out in droves (Ed Norton, Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone to name a few) it just felt like we were witnessing something truly special. The Orpheum sign outside said it all "??????" as the band's name for tonight - we didn't know what exactly to expect but we sure as hell were excited. From the moment Thom Yorke entered the stage and the crowd erupted to their feet in a standing ovation, you could see he was elated. This was his stage without fellow Radiohead members in tow (though Colin Greenwood was watching from the crowd) and he owned it from the first second. With the confidence of a seasoned band (not one practicing for all of 3 weeks as Yorke later pointed out), Thom Yorke and crew brought The Eraser, Thom Yorke's solo album, to life. The electronic beats and minimalist instrumentation were replaced with two percussionists (using a plethora of unconventional instruments), Flea on bass and Nigel Godrich "on everything else" as Yorke pointed out introducing the band. From the title track through track 4, "Black Swan", the audience stayed seated, glued and seemingly in awe of the spectacle. Before going into "Skip Divided", Yorke told the crowd this was his "dance record" and we should dance along if so inclined. Everyone in the house got up and never looked back. Continuing through each track on The Eraser, Yorke played my personal favorite "Atoms for Peace" with Flea playing the underlying bass harmonics and almost nothing else behind it. Yorke's voice was the showcase and it only became more evident as the night went on. The final song on the album, "Cymbal Rush" was completely reworked in staggering fashion - this was one of the two biggest highlights of the night. On the last Radiohead tour, this was a song Yorke would play often times solo on piano during the encore. In this version, it turns into an all-out rhythmic dance jam - the perfect song to end the set.
Now it was Thom Yorke's turn solo (not like the night wasn't one long victory lap for Yorke the whole time). He started with just him and his electric guitar and his new tune "Lotus Flower". Then Yorke took to the piano, the instrument where he has created so many gorgeous and heartbreaking ballads. First was new song "Open the Floodgates", with minimal chords gently nudging the song along to a chorus of just Yorke's gorgeous vocal riffs. This was just a warm-up for the absolute highlight of the night. Yorke played "Supercollier" a Radiohead tune that was unveiled in some live shows last summer. Over a major chord progression, Yorke showcased the amazing voice he has - no one else can convey the complexity of emotions he can with his voice. With the brilliant acoustics of the Orpheum and the reverent silence of the crowd, I have never heard Yorke's voice sound this otherworldly. The chorus was absolute sonic bliss. (See the video below for both "Open The Floodgates" and "Supercollier") (Download "Supercollier" from a Radiohead live show in Dublin HERE)
The band returned to finish up with four more new songs. "Paper Writer" had one of the best dance beats of the whole night and "Judge, Jury and Executioner" furthered the absolute brilliance of the rhythm section. The band felt like they had been playing together for years. Nigel even got down from his intricate setup in the back left to jam side by side with Flea. The new Thom Yorke singles, B-side "The Hollow Earth" and "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" closed out the night perfectly (ok maybe ONE old radiohead gem would have made it absolute perfection). This was an absolutely staggering experience - The Eraser filled with live instrumentation, Yorke front and center without Radiohead and he not only blew us all away but did so enjoying it completely the whole damn time.
Can't wait for Round 2 tonight!!
The whole bootleg of the Echoplex "warm-up show" (essentially the same setlist) is available HERE