Anyone that has been following Radiohead the past two years knows that the band has been more spontaneous than they have ever been. From the unexpected online release of In Rainbows to the recently released single “These Are My Twisted Words,” fans have come to expect the unexpected. Last Tuesday Thom Yorke announced on Dead Air Space that he had “been getting a band together for fun to play the eraser stuff live and the new songs”. The band consisted of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Beck/R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Mauro Refosco of Forro in the Dark. For three weeks the new (still unnamed) band rehearsed the entire Eraser album along with some new material. They were set to play two gigs the same week at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angels. As if fans weren’t already knocked off their feet, Yorke had yet another surprise up his sleeve. That Thursday night, Yorke announced the new band would be playing a secret warm-up gig at the Echoplex – a 325 person venue, and tickets were to go on sale the very day of the show.
The Echoplex (as you can expect) sold out instantly. Ticket Web couldn’t even hold the traffic that was generating around the show, and it resulted in only a select lucky few to obtain tickets. I was one of the lucky few. The day of the Oprheum show had arrived, and I was wondering what to expect from this show, as I had just seen/witnessed an incredible band in their purest form at the warm up gig. In short, the band sounded even better. After working out the kinks at the Echo, the Orpheum show showed a band that sounded much tighter and rehearsed. Also noticeably different was that Yorke was less vocal with the crowd banter. If the immaculate 1920’s all seated theatre wasn’t indication enough, it was evident from the start that this was going to be a more professional show. As Yorke and the band first came out on stage, the entire crowd rose to their feet in an ovation. But the minute Yorke sat down to play the piano – so to did the crowd. Yes, everyone was sitting down at a Thom Yorke show. Such a stark contrast from the Bar show they played 2 days earlier. Eventually Yorke got the crowd to their feet on “Skip Divided” as he said he always imagined the Eraser as being a “dance album”. Everyone finally decided to stand, and the show really started to feel like a go.
The highlight of the Eraser material was Harrowdown Hill. The song had a new groove thanks to Flea, and the song just seemed explosive with energy. Flea was easily the best addition to the band. The entire show he was was dancing and jumping around on stage, and Yorke fed off his energy. You could tell that Flea had a great respect and admiration for Yorke, and that he was giving his all to the material. Often, Yorke dances and convulse around the stage by himself, but now he had Flea to feed off that energy. This to me, was the best part of the entire show. Seeing these two incredible musicians working together with great chemistry. After breathing new life into The Eraser (they played it front to back) the entire band left the stage. After about 2 min of clapping Yorke came back by himself to play some new songs – which were “Lotus Flower”, “Open The Floodgates” and the much requested “Super Collider”. Pretty funny seeing as at the Echo someone yelled at him to play it to which Thom replied [paraphrase] “I did not write it, and even if I did I do not know to play it”. The new songs were all stunning, and they definitely show a new musical direction for Yorke. “Lotus Flower” was the highlight out of the bunch (although many will argue Super Collider was the best moment of the show). The band eventually returned and they launched into “Paperbag Writer” – a Radiohead B-side. The song was much more funkier as Flea slapped away and Yorke danced erotically that would even have Mick Jagger envious.
The performance showed a group that has incredible chemistry together. While the Orpheum show was much tighter, it lacked some of the raw energy that their warm up gig had (understandably). But having been lucky enough to witness the intimate show, I much preferred that one. Not just because I was a foot from Thom Yorke – but because the band (particularly Yorke) seemed happier on stage then he has in years. He was glowing the entire show all smiles, and was constantly talking to the crowd and cracking jokes. I mean, Yorke giving someone the double middle finger in response to “play free bird” is something I will never get out of my head. He also played with his shirt open, of course a highlight. In all seriousness though, one would hope that this band decides to play again – maybe even record material together. They have captured something special (that not even Radiohead has) – and it would be a shame if this was only a one off thing.
6.Atoms For Peace
7.And It Rained All Night
Thom Solo (w/o band)
10.Lotus Flower / Moon Upon A Stick
11.Open The Floodgates
14.Judge, Jury & Executioner
15.The Hollow Earth
16.Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses