Radiohead rattles the Tampa Bay Times Forum
There’s music that gets your head nodding and feet tapping, but then there’s the music that makes you bounce and sway uncontrollably, mastered by the British alt-rockers that make up Radiohead.
Frontman Thom Yorke personified their trance-inducing sound Wednesday night in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, his body staying in perpetual motion throughout their two-hour, 23-song set list.
The show was the first time the group, called “the best band in the world” in everywhere from Time magazine to the Q Awards, had played in Tampa since 2008.
Yorke was the conductor of the five-man orchestra that played mostly songs off their last two albums, “In Rainbows” and “King of Limbs.” The band sprinkled in a few classics from their collection to the joy of longtime fans and even offered up two brand new tracks yet to be released.
The show started with “Bloom,” from 2010’s “King of Limbs.” Each song was accompanied by a stunning visual display made up of LCD screens and neon lights. A 50-foot wall of brightly lit panels shifted color and shape to correspond to each track.
Multiple large LCD monitors hung from the ceiling, suspended in differing formations. Each displayed alternating camera angles of the different band members. The addition of these close-ups made the experience feel like being at the concert and watching a polished DVD of it simultaneously.
The key to the success of the show was harmony. Not vocal harmony, but rather fluidity between Yorke’s voice and movements, the bands flawless play and the ever-changing visual environment of the stage.
During “Pyramid Song,” the suspended monitors lowered and angled inward to revolve around Yorke’s grand piano at center stage. As is true of the music, the presentation of the song revolved around his long vocal and piano intro. Then, during the raucous elctro-beat of “Idioteque,” the monitors hung like symmetrically spaced diamonds, flashing turquoise and yellow tints to the video footage on display. The lights pulsed and dimmed as Yorke managed to bounce his knees and act out the rapid-fire lyrics with his hands.
Yorke’s bandmates, guitarist and keyboardist Jonny Greenwood, guitarist Ed O’Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway played furiously throughout the show’s entirety. Yorke switched between keyboard, piano and no instrument while howling his incomparable vocals. Though most of what he said, even between songs, was barely comprehensible, the beauty of his vocal style is how well it complements their unique sound.
Ranging between a melodic whisper and a pitching bellow, Yorke’s voice is just another instrument adding to the sonic phenomena that is Radiohead. Their songs aren’t ones that you listen to, but rather that you let overtake you.
The lucky few on the ground level mostly did their best to mimic Yorke’s Jagger-esque dancing. Even the fans restricted to their stadium seats tossed and flailed in what little space they had.
The band seemed to be having the most fun during one of their freshly unveiled songs, “Identikit.” The stage lit up green as Yorke’s hips and shoulders dipped and swayed to a snare-heavy, hip-hop sounding beat. Yorke offered high-pitched lines while O’Brien sang low backing vocals. It sounded uncharacteristically jovial to start, but then got a lot darker as the guitar joined in. It came full circle when the paired lines from the beginning were added to the full sound of the guitar and keyboard, making for an altogether worthy addition to their repertoire.
Radiohead rounded out their set with “Reckoner,” which featured Yorke strumming electric guitar while hitting the highest notes of the evening. The highlight of the first encore was “Myxomatosis.” Selway clicked his drumsticks together to establish a rhythm and then Yorke went airborne. When he landed, the stage exploded into green and gold light as the band came in with the iconic bass line. The crowd exploded in a roar of approval.
The second encore finished off the night with “Karma Police” and “Street Spirit.” Yorke, who said very few words between songs, waved goodbye and thanked everyone for coming.