* Just how exactly does a band like Radiohead fill a venue the size of Blossom Music Center? It’s a question that came up time and again as I socialized before the show. On one hand, here’s this fiercely artistic band who doesn’t write hits and increasingly shuns traditional melodies in favor of abstract electronics. Dig deeper, however, and you can begin to piece together their cross-genre appeal. They’ve always had the hearts of critics and the indie rock crowd. Add in their current live set up,which includes two drummers, and the rhythms accompanying those electronics certainly hold appeal to the jam band crowd. Yes, people do dance to Radiohead. Lastly, as they’ve moved further away from tradition, the EDM heads have taken notice, too. Now, you have a wonderful sampling of music fans who can fill an outdoor amphitheater.
* The downside to this cross-section of music fans is that you may have to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers blasting from someone’s car stereo while you enjoy your pre-show, trunk beers. I got to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers for a solid hour before the show.
* The set list, especially early on, relied heavily upon material from The King of Limbs and their other later career albums. To a number, the minimal electronics the band has become so fond of, didn’t sound so minimal any more. Again, having two drum kits on stage helped. So did, seeing and hearing vocalist, Thom Yorke deliver these songs with conviction; with the range of an opera singer and some not so bad dance moves. Yes, EDM fans hate it when rock critics lament electronic music’s sterility. To them it’s an insult to say their music is cold and unfeeling. Yet, for someone who doesn’t live, eat, and sleep beats, being able to associate machine made music with real people does indeed help.
* Speaking of Yorke, with that pony tail of his and his scruffy beard, I couldn’t stop thinking about how he looked ready to step on the set of a Guy Ritchie gangster film.
* And while we’re talking about appearances, I have to ask: Has Johnny Greenwood aged a single day since he joined Radiohead? He still hides his fresh face behind that mop top and that mop top has extra gears when his guitar is set to rip. He may be a vampire.
* Staying on the topic of Greenwood, at various points during the band’s set he could be seen playing guitar, keyboards, samplers, a police scanner, and a small, stand-up drum kit.
* While the crowd was really receptive to the new material, receptive to the point of deafening applause, the night’s highlight’s were all from the band’s back catalog. For “There There,” from Hail to the Thief, the band not only had the two full drum kits in action, but Greenwood and Ed O’Brien also chipped in with extra percussion. The effect was mesmerizing. Meanwhile the blazing blues riff of “I Might Be Wrong,” stood out not just for its intensity, but how naturally it fit in with a mostly electronic set. Later, “Idioteque,” “Exit Music (For a Film),” and “Myxyamytosis,” all brought the crowd to a fever pitch. Really, it cannot be overstated how much these fans, these fans from all backgrounds and walks of life, admire and cherish Radiohead.
* I wasn’t the guy screaming for “Creep,” but if you heard someone scream, “Anyone Can Play Guitarrrrr!!!” that was me.
* Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the song Radiohead chose to end the night — “Paranoid Android.” Sure, it’s from their break-out album, OK Computer, and one of the best known songs in their catalog, but I assumed they were at that stage in their career where they were beyond playing the “hits.” Boy, was I wrong and boy, did that number slay.
*While Radiohead may be serious in their artistic endeavors, they do still have a fan-friendly side to them, too. Yorke said “Thank you,” maybe 15, 20 times during the night. I lost count early on.
* Lastly, I have to say how much I appreciate my friends at Music Saves inviting me to share in their ace seats. Many years ago I vowed I would never watch Radiohead from the lawn at Blossom ever again. I didn’t have to. I got to watch Radiohead from row “P” which was really more like row “G,” since it was only seven or so rows behind the pit. Thanks, team.