Radiohead at HP Pavilion: 4/11/12

The smallest men sometimes have the most commanding presences. Fig. 1, Thom Yorke. (Dan Honda/San Jose Mercury News)

It should have been billed as the Thom Yorke show.

Radiohead‘s frontman is usually the center of attention, but the rest of the band is no wallflower. On Wednesday night, though, in the expansive, sponsored-out HP Pavilion (which still always feels like a hockey rink, even when bands like this play there), Yorke felt like the only one on stage.

For two hours and more than 20 songs, Yorke twitched, swayed and pranced like a charmed snake or a fox with its tail on fire while the Greenwoods et al. stood in a stoic semicircle around him.

It’s no surprise, then, that the setlist favored the jarring rhythms and brash sounds of The King of Limbs. Nostalgic Radiohead fans probably felt a little jilted. Almost every other song was released in the last few years. It’s a smart move in terms of promoting the album and new singles, but for a band with a discography that lasts for miles, it was lopsided.

Roar. (Dan Honda/San Jose Mercury News)

Other Lives started the show promptly with a pleasant but mostly unremarkable — and very short — opening set against fuzzy lighting. When Radiohead took the stage, though, the audience’s eyes gleamed. A dozen lit screens, suspended by strings from each of four corners, floated and twirled above the band like synchronized UFOs. Yorke, in red pants and a black vest, sported a miniscule ponytail — a far cry from his usual fluffy mop.

They jumped into “Bloom” and, through the night, ran through almost all of The King of Limbs. Some tracks devolved into brash noise; others like “Separator” felt smooth.

Yorke teased bits of their past with “Kid A” and “National Anthem.” When they busted out a rousing, crowd-pleasing rendition of “Karma Police,” the audience was so tightly wrapped around their finger that Yorke only had to gesture like a conductor toward the crowd to make the cheers grow at his command.

By the time the band came out for its first encore, Yorke was doing a perfect drunk-girl dance as he wiggled along to “Hail to the Thief.” The first encore closed with a massive take on “Everything in Its Right Place” — but the group came out for one more round.

“All right then,” Yorke said matter-of-factly. Three songs later — and after a classic spastic dance number during “Idioteque” — it was over.

Radiohead will take the stage again to headline Saturday at Coachella. Here’s to hoping Yorke cuts his ponytail off before then.

Radiohead – Separator (download)

Radiohead – Reckoner (downl0ad)

One response to “Radiohead at HP Pavilion: 4/11/12

  1. I wish they would have closed with Paranoid Android, but still, they were amazing. I watched a live feed of them at Coachella a couple days after because I still couldn’t get enough of them live. I featured a couple Radiohead tracks on a recent post…

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