After many (many) failed attempts to get tickets to see Radiohead in NYC or LA, I caved and went in for one day passes at Lollapalooza. This was one of the better, if not best decisions, I’ll ever make regarding a music festival. The show was incredible, and well worth the hours spent getting accosted by teenagers in fanny packs and knee socks. I’d seen Radiohead live once before, in 2008 during the In Rainbows tour, and my expectations for the Lolla show were crazy high. As amazing as the ‘08 show was, I thought Radiohead's Lolla performance was even more mind-blowing, largely because they dug into their catalogue, played newer songs I didn't expect to work well live, and the entire performance was drenched in electricity.
The biggest setlist surprises were “Let Down,” “Pyramid Song,” and "My Iron Lung." The songs were as strong and well-received as they'd ever been, completely undiminished the passing of time (we’re looking at over 20 years since The Bends). Hail To The Thief was in heavy rotation, and to me was an obvious nod to the state of the world in 2016, a reminder of how much and how little has changed since the 2003 album.
Some of the older songs got slight makeovers: "Idioteque" was sped up (not to be hyperbolic but I was so struck by it that I teared up), they rearranged “Everything In Its Right Place,” and let "Karma Police," the show’s closer, go acoustic at various points (think the National ending their sets with “Vanderlyle Geeks”). I was of course really excited to see how the band's new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, would sound live. In many ways A Moon Shaped Pool is a return to Radiohead's older stuff. It blends the ambient soundscapes and looping of In Rainbows and The King of Limbs with the guitar-leaning rhythms of Ok Computer and The Bends. "Identikit,” for example, is exquisitely layered but still punctuated with string distortions and deep, rib-rattling drums. But given the complexities of that track and others, I had no idea what to expect from the live renditions. With a second drummer on stage, those tracks climbed into places I didn't expect and I loved every second of them.
I had my fingers crossed for “Weird Fishes” and “Bloom,” and I was not disappointed, as the band played both. The latter, my favorite off of The King of Limbs, was a big surprise because it's one of the more ambient and electronic of their songs and didn't seem like an immediate fit for an outdoor show. I also hoped for songs that didn't make it into the set, like “15 Step," “Separator,” “Packt Like Sardines,” and “Desert Island Disk,” but those tracks are just more reasons to see the band again.
I have to say, there were some aspects of the show that might make me think twice about seeing Radiohead at a festival again. The Lolla crowd was frustrating at times, and I was annoyed about having to see (and hear) so many people chatting with their backs to the stage. At least "Karma Police" brought a feeling of unity to the crowd, and it was nice to end the night on that note. The audio mixes also stumbled at points, and I had trouble hearing Yorke on a few songs and wasn't sure if the issue was technical or related to the EDM beats flying off of the neighboring stage.
Those small annoyances aside, I was so happy to be thrown around in the emotional tidal-pool that the music carried me through. For two hours Radiohead plunged us into paranoia (“Ful Stop”), ecstasy (“Weird Fishes”), rage (“Myxomatosis”), fear and hope. “It’s good to get angry sometimes,” Yorke told the crowd. The crowd agreed. “And we’ll take back what is ours.”