MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NYC -
AUGUST 7, 2001
In the vacuous wasteland that is popular music, every generation produces an artist that
rises above the norm, shatters the boundaries and pushes the limits. Previous examples
would be Elvis (Presley that is) and the Beatles. As "Generation X" we thought ours was
Nirvana, and for a while they were. At the very least they gave rock n roll a much-needed
kick in the ass. But the flame was too bright and burnt out too quickly. When Cobain
died, it left a void that countless imitators have tried to fill, largely unsuccessfully. What
these bands don't understand is, you can't just simply open the rulebook and copy
everything play-by-play. There has to be genuine emotion and the desire to take what you
have learned and forge it into something new and exciting. Something that shatters the
boundaries and pushes the limits. That is precisely what Radiohead does.
After the astounding success of the much-heralded masterpiece OK Computer, fans and
critics alike wondered what Radiohead could possibly do to top it. What they did was
throw us all a curveball with the gloriously dissonant and electronic-heavy Kid A. And
just as we were getting used to that one, a mere eight months later they unleashed
Amnesiac, Kid A's slightly more accessible cousin. While both were recorded at the
same time, both albums stand completely on their own as separate entities, tied together
only by the facts they were both products of the same recording session, and a shared
track (albeit in slightly different versions) in Morning Bell. A lot of people were a bit put
off by this new direction and wondered if the band weren't purposely trying to alienate
their fans by being completely uncompromising and aloof.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as the bands sold-out stop in New York City's
Madison Square Garden on August 7th attested to. The show began with bassist Colin
Greenwood's stomping, fuzzed-drenched intro to The National Anthem. For just a
moment there it almost seemed like a (gasp!) arena rock show! But then they segued into
Morning Bell, which brought it back into perspective. Nearly all the band's albums (save
Pablo Honey) were represented during the show. There was a wonderful rendition of No
Surprises as well as a stunningly visceral performance of the epic Paranoid Android.
Other highlights included a beautiful version of Fake Plastic Trees, a slightly souped-up I
Might Be Wrong, and a manic Idioteque which found Thom Yorke flailing all over the
stage. Thom even treated the crowd to one verse of the as-yet-unreleased (and a personal
favorite of mine) Follow Me Around before launching into Pyramid Song. The best
moment however would probably have to be when it came time for You And Whose
Army. With a fish-eye lens camera mounted to his piano, Thom sang the song while
making faces at us all via two large video screens on either side of the stage, gesturing to
the powers that be to "come on, if you think you can take us all". It really was the
defining moment of the show because at that time, it wasn't about the band/audience
barrier, we were all part of something bigger, and we were all connected by the common
goal to fight all opposition. Radiohead were the generals, and we were the army. This is
what you get when you mess with us indeed.
Also another good point is the band themselves. This was by no means the ThomYorke
show with Backing Band; it was truly a group effort, each member contributing
significantly to the show. Even the more electronic-based songs found guitarists Ed
O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood busily fiddling with an array of effects that added texture
and substance. The band truly seemed to enjoy being there and perhaps in gratitude, they
treated the New York crowd to no less than three encores, ending the entire night with
Exit Music and the ominous line "We hope that you choke".
If you haven't been lucky enough to be able to attend one of Radiohead's shows, my
advice is to do everything in your power to try to get to one, because you are missing out
on one of the greatest acts of this generation.
Written By: Tim B.