10 aout 1997, Atlanta, The Masquerade
article de Micah Robinson, correspondant d’Addicted To Noise à Atlanta :
Their fans came. They saw. They were spellbound. On the only date in the Southeast on their current tour, British rockers Radiohead graced the limelight of Atlanta’s Masquerade, a smoky, but accommodating club that was packed to the gills with rabid fans who had come from miles around to glimpse the band of the hour : Radiohead. And by the time they left Sunday, few fans would argue that the band of the hour has years of music making ahead of it. As Radiohead, which has attracted so much industry attention as of late, took the stage, the air sizzled with anticipation about whether these guys could faithfully reproduce the complexity and depth of the material that has made the new album such a critical success. For every fan in the house, the answer was an ecstatic « Yes ! » From the opening rocker to the last lulling encore, the audience seemed beside itself with happiness at witnessing what some say is rock’s next mega-band.
The assembled throngs practically exploded with applause when the band opened to the strains of fitter happier, an interesting sonic collage off the group’s new album, OK Computer. And the noise never really died down ’til well after the band had left the stage. Launching into a suite of songs from the new album including no surprises and airbag, as well as selections from their previous albums, Pablo Honey and the bends, Radiohead put to rest any notion that while the boys could craft epic pop songs, they were incapable of rocking. Oh, they rocked. No question about it. As frontman Thom Yorke’s voice soared above the dense layers of music that is Radiohead’s foundation, the band fed off of his intensity, elevating the beautifully soaring rock compositions to an even higher level of sound.
On stage, the band’s ace in the hole was definitely lead guitarist/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood, who consistently unleashed a torrent of analog-synthesized bleeps, heavily-processed guitar that echoed the keyboards and furious white noise and power chords that had audience members scratching their heads in confusion over how such sound one man could generate. And this was not just another one-sided rock show, where the band does all the rocking and the audience hangs on for the ride. The majority of the crowd clearly knew every song by heart, singing their hearts out with each – from the obvious singles to the more obscure selections – prompting Yorke to admit, I must say that I am impressed with your knowledge of our work. The crowd answered back with more ecstatic screams and unintelligible cries.
The band’s diminutive frontman, who has been characterized as aloof by some in the past, was nothing less than charming here, exuding a charisma that had most everyone in the club captivated. He was a showman in the truest sense, casting a spell upon the audience by giving people more than something to listen to. Yorke’s movement was almost hypnotic as he swayed, weaving his head constantly like a snake-charmer. And although his stage banter rarely went beyond thank you, every smile seemed to incite the audience to near hysteria, as if he was musing over a joke that everyone was in on. Their atmospheric songs combined with the silhouetted lighting made the night seem almost hyper-real. It was like the band was inviting you into their secret world, with Yorke’s spell guiding you.
The spell seemed to climax as the band played paranoid android
, the Bohemian Rhapsody/Happiness is a Warm Gun-like tune which like these rock classics, offers three distinct parts, each more powerful than the last. It is the first single from the new album and the band took no time in demonstrating why. Every facet of the song from the busy, blaring rhythm track that kicks it off to the ethereal chorus of voices in the final section was recreated live. And, unlike Queen who rarely performed their Bohemian epic without a tape player handy or the Beatles who stopped touring midway through their career, Radiohead proved that they are much more than a « studio group, » and quite capable of making good on their records in concert. Some could argue that the audience was so enthralled by what they had seen so far on stage, that the band could have left here and no one would have had a right to argue.
Still, the best was yet to come. Suddenly, like calculating fighters strategically planning to knock out an opponent, the boys unleashed on the crowd a 1-2-3 song combination of the darkly cinematic exit music (for a film), the lilting LetDown and the massively rocking the bends to bring the show to a house-quaking close. Amazingly enough, the band’s first hit, creep, was nowhere to be heard that night, not that anyone noticed or cared. Nonetheless the decision not to play their breakthrough smash was a sure sign that this band has reached a level of confidence usually reserved for the greats. This was Radiohead’s night and few wanted to let go. The audience, suspicious of the show’s end when Thom said, Thank you. Goodnight !, refused to move one inch and instead stomped, clapped and screamed until their rock heroes took the stage once again for the first of three encores. Finally, while roadies tore equipment down and the audience filed to the exits, Yorke picked up an acoustic guitar and stepped to the last microphone on stage, where he began strumming plaintively and moaning softly as if singing a lullaby to a child. The ballad left fans so hypnotized that many stood stunned for a few minutes, seemingly lost in the moment – one they will likely not soon forget.