With just under two thousand tickets on sale, the chances were slim, but Getintothis’ Joe Giess managed to infiltrate Radiohead’s one of three gigs at the Roundhouse.
You can picture her, can’t you? Kim Kardashian curled up in a ball like an infant, stroking her iPhone 6, weeping on Kanye’s lap at Thom Yorke’s ability to crack the Internet with a twitch of the eye and a cryptic post on a Radiohead message board.
Weeks before the tour started, the grapevine was being infected at an exponential rate, with tit-bits of Radiogibberish, enigmatic images posted on Instagram and re-circulated back through every news and culture site, leaving most fans in a factual quagmire.
“They’ve deleted their online presence?”
“True Love Waits is on the album?!
“They played My Iron Lung at the last gig?!”
Typically done, in classic Radiohead fashion, the troubled mythopoeic imagination of Stanley Donwood propagating the tittle-tattle as the feverish excitement starts to melt the minds of some fans.
And here we were, about to travel into the heart of darkness.
Just a few hours, and I would be in the same room as Jonny Greenwood tangled around his Telecaster and Thom Yorke gyrating around the stage like slutty forty year old house wife, pointing to the audience as he twerks.
We left the North West and the inclement subsided, giving way to the sunny southern weather, the type us Northerners seethe with envy about. A few hours later and we were smoking our cigarettes, pacing around alehouses and jetting across the big smoke in an utter fugue. It was as if it was Christmas Eve, nobody was really there (and it wasn’t happening), we just wandered about in introverted anticipation.
Reaching the venue, the queue for the Roundhouse weaved and teetered around the streets, but the jovial mood was untouchable, for everybody knew they were the lucky ones.
Slowly, however, the trail of desperation left by lesser fortunate fans dawned on us. Leaflets, posters and a series intimate notes strewn across the roads; as if people were searching for lost loved ones after a natural disaster. Pictures and numbers hanged off cello-taped papers. Even as we took the final steps through the entrance, girls shrieked in a last bid for glory and success, waving cardboard signs exclaiming: “Will give head for Radiohead tix.”
We made it in, getting through the gates of the southern valhalla, guarded like an airport, and it all became intoxicatingly surreal. Brian Molko wandered around with a pint of cider, Alia Shawkat of Broad City/Arrested Development fame weaved in between the crowds, it felt as if this group of people were the chosen few selected to continue the human race.
“Let me through, I’m Radiohead’s biggest fan”.
Echoed around the auditorium as people filed into the actual arena, the euphoria quickly subsided, as everyone’s entitlement dawned upon them, the determination for the best position setting in, a natural prerogative for all attending. The resulting atmosphere in the audience was a Spartan battlement, a legion of people standing rigid, fending off people trying to push their way to the front.
As slender silhouettes became the distinguishable characters of Radiohead, the crowd turned into a frenzied mob. This audience had waited five years for this album, with grainy demos being siphoned through live performances by Thom Yorke. The whole affair was long over due, and the audience was about to crack.
Opening with a chaotic, thick version of Burn The Witch, which took on a different ambience with the loss of the strings, and then slipping into the fragile and nebulous Daydreaming, to a quivering crowd. They carried on, hammering through the bangers of A Moon Shaped Pool until treating us to the lesser spoken of B Side – Talk Show Host.
We’re completely positive in saying that at least three quarters of the crowd surrounding me were quietly sobbing. In the silence between songs, after the applause had settled, a wave of sniffles from avid fans rippled over the mob, and a cape of mucus glistened in the spot light when it shone on the crowd.
With the band possessing such a cornucopia of genre-spanning material to pick from, we were oblivious what we would be treated to. As the crowd falls to a hush for the ninth the time, the first chord of Exit Music (For A Film) resonated and the audience responded with a whimpering sigh of disbelief. And the anthems keep on coming, turning to the bass driven, fan favourite, Myxomatosis and then their exploits in electronica and motorik from Kid A – Idioteque and Everything In Its Right Place.
Over the passing of time, the band have gained a certain reputation for being a standoffish, hostile group, but tonight they come across as nothing but effusive and amiable, playing bum notes and being able to joke about it, added with the cosy capacity, it made the concert all the more intimate.
The group even joked as they came on for the first of their two encores; “We’re staying the whole night, We’re going to play all of our material.”
Before littering it with singles from albums ten years apart, utterly seamlessly, armed with anthems and ballads, the closed their set with absolute show-stealers.
The night draws to a close, and the crowd slowly disperse, some of the obsessives still clung onto the front bar, probably still stood there as we write this. Trying to submerse themselves in that feeling for as long as possible, before having to reduce it to memory. People jostle and wrestle with each other, as the sound men casually fling the set list into the crowd; a greasy man wearing an anorak comes out of nowhere, reaches above the frail fans hands and darts off into the night, the white of the holy grail of set lists shining in the blacks of his eyes.
Radiohead perhaps define this generation and the times of this modern day and age. A truly remarkable night, in more ways than one.
*Disclaimer: We weren’t the ones who paid six thousand pounds for a ticket.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAU7lLDZYU&w=560&h=315]