Q (UK) - - Contents - NIALL DO­HERTY

Thom Yorke and his merry pranksters hit the North for a tri­umphant end-of-tour gig.


They have been such a big band for so long that it is easy to for­get just how strange Ra­dio­head’s mass ap­peal is. Imag­ine ex­plain­ing it to some­one who’s been liv­ing in a cave for 30 years: they’re mas­sive, they’ve head­lined Glas­ton­bury three times, they don’t re­ally have any hits, but they do have sin­ga­longs, although some of the sin­ga­longs don’t have a cho­rus, they’re a rock band, but they play a big rave num­ber in the mid­dle of the set, and they have three guitarists, two of whom spend a few of the songs play­ing live sam­ples through their ped­als… try­ing to un­pick Ra­dio­head’s bril­liance hurts the brain, like at­tempt­ing to un­der­stand how a boiler works when re­ally you should just en­joy hav­ing hot wa­ter. It’s over a year since they launched the tour to sup­port their ninth al­bum, A Moon Shaped Pool, and it draws closer to its con­clu­sion on a grey July evening in Manch­ester. Af­ter tonight, there are two more shows and then their di­ary is empty. Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin and Phil are free to go off and do more solo al­bums, sound­tracks, sab­bat­i­cals, wa­ter polo lessons – what­ever it is Ra­dio­head mem­bers do when they’re not be­ing Ra­dio­head mem­bers. Per­haps there will be some re­flec­tion on the pre­vi­ous 15 months, where over two legs of on-off tour­ing they have re­minded peo­ple in an amus­ingly busi­ness-as-usual fash­ion that there is no one to match them as a live band at this level. Cold­play and U2 have more piz­zazz, but Ra­dio­head would be just as cap­ti­vat­ing in a room hold­ing 35 peo­ple as they are in front of 35,000. Their taste for the spec­tac­u­lar is a lit­tle (a lot) sub­tler – and if that’s not work­ing, they can al­ways knock out Creep. Ra­dio­head haven’t played their own out­door show in Manch­ester since they head­lined this venue in 2008, but if tonight has the air of a grand state­ment then it is more due to tragic cir­cum­stance than de­sign. Orig­i­nally, the band were sup­posed to play two shows at the Manch­ester Arena but with the venue still not


ready to re­open af­ter the May ter­ror­ist at­tack, the dates have been con­densed into one night here. On Tal­bot Road, as crowds make their way to­wards the con­verted cricket ground, most con­ver­sa­tions are de­bat­ing whether or not the stage time of 8pm will be ad­hered to. “They’re on at eight?” says one bloke to his mate, “they won’t be on at eight.” They go on at eight. There are still huge queues out­side the venue as they take to the stage.

Ev­ery Ra­dio­head show this year has be­gun with Day­dream­ing, a beau­ti­fully drift­ing piece of mu­sic that has more in com­mon with bird­song than it does a rab­ble-rous­ing sta­di­um­rock opener. The last time Q saw Thom Yorke, at a show in Paris in 2016, he ex­plained how band man­ager Chris Huf­ford told him he was “fuck­ing mad” for play­ing Day­dream­ing so early in the set. Tonight, about 50 gigs later, and per­haps due to the fact that it’s still day­light when they come on, Yorke fi­nally heeds his ad­vice and in­stead they be­gin with Let Down, the ma­jes­tic cen­tre­piece of OK Com­puter. You could never imag­ine Ra­dio­head do­ing any­thing as ap­peas­ing as play­ing that al­bum in full – although they’d prob­a­bly get a kick out of “per­form­ing” pre-mil­len­nial, ro­bot-voiced man­i­festo Fit­ter Hap­pier in the mid­dle of a set – but tonight comes close, al­beit on shuf­fle. Lucky, a crunch­ing Airbag and the dozy sway of No Sur­prises are all aired be­fore the sun goes down, a huge cheer erupt­ing dur­ing the lat­ter’s “bring down the gov­ern­ment” line. Be­fore that, there’s the com­pelling sight of a fight tak­ing place while be­ing sound­tracked by the sooth­ing glide of All I Need. Yorke has his arms in the air, croon­ing at the front of the stage, obliv­i­ous as two men are marched to­wards the exit. Dur­ing the ex­tended groove of Ev­ery­thing In Its Right Place, a fa­ther and son pogo with arms around each other, mum stand­ing just be­hind. It’s a good gig. Every­body is hav­ing a good time, apart from the fighty men. Some peo­ple might be think­ing,

“I’ve seen them bet­ter be­fore, but this is good, they started with Let Down, I’m hav­ing a good time.” And then some­thing hap­pens: the sun starts to go down, the stage be­gins to il­lu­mi­nate, the son­ics sharpen and a good gig turns mag­i­cal. Weird Fishes/ Ar­peggi prompts a mass sin­ga­long and all of a sud­den Yorke’s voice sounds like it’s com­ing through the clouds. A fren­zied Idioteque gives this cricket ground the head­rush of a messy house party.

Shifted to the open­ing song of the first encore, Day­dream­ing is trans­fix­ing and then comes an ex­hil­a­rat­ing run of songs. Para­noid An­droid sparks a conga in the area be­hind the mix­ing desk – why wouldn’t it? – and it starts to rain as the song comes to its “rain down” sec­tion. That prob­a­bly has more to do with the fact we’re in Manch­ester than any sign that Ra­dio­head are gods of rain. Fake Plas­tic Trees is so del­i­cate and un-bom­bas­tic it’s as if it’s be­ing whis­pered into your ear, and There There gets a Ra­dio Ga Ga-style cla­pa­long from front to back. There’s a rare air­ing of The Bends and then Karma Po­lice com­pletes a fantastic show, its “for a minute there, I lost my­self ” re­frain bounc­ing round the venue as giddy pun­ters fil­ter out. There is noth­ing to match the emo­tional clench that Ra­dio­head pull their crowd into. After­wards, there’s an af­ter­show in a con­fer­ence room-slash-bar that looks like it’s played host to some pretty spe­cial pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tions in its time. Var­i­ous band mem­bers come in and out and ac­tor Cil­lian Mur­phy, with a freshly shaven Peaky Blin­ders hair­cut, hov­ers near the door. Jonny Greenwood sips a red wine on the bal­cony, nearby Phil Sel­way catches up with some friends and Ed O’Brien, who has the suave pres­ence of a suc­cess­ful TV pre­sen­ter, plays host in the main room. Next: who knows? Jonny Greenwood and Yorke will play a ben­e­fit show as a duo for the earthquake-hit Le Marche re­gion of Italy, and af­ter that there’s noth­ing sched­uled. O’Brien has long been plan­ning to record a solo al­bum and is ex­pected to crack on with that. When Ra­dio­head ended the King Of Limbs tour in 2012, they didn’t resur­face for four years. They are not a band be­holden to the tra­di­tional ro­ta­tion of re­lease/tour/record, but it would be a shame if there was another four-year wait, es­pe­cially when they’re in this kind of form. They move at their own pace, spin on their own axis, make you want more. They are one of a kind.

Ev­ery­thing in its right place: Ra­dio­head (from left, Colin Greenwood, tour­ing drum­mer Clive Deamer, Phil Sel­way, Jonny Greenwood, Yorke, Ed O’Brien) de­liver the goods at Emi­rates Old Traf­ford.


’Head boy: Yorke con­ducts the throng.

“Rain down, rain down...” The crowd pre­pare for a spot of in­clement weather.

Any­one can play gui­tar – but not like this... Jonny lets rip.

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