Saturday, August 16, 2008

Radiohead | Comcast Center | Aug 13

I've never been much of a Radiohead fan. When I listen to their stuff, I can respect them for what they are trying to do and understand why others love them so much. However, they've never made an emotional connection with me.

So, when a friend mentioned that he had a pair of VIP tickets to see Radiohead outside of Boston, I suggested he find a hardcore Radiohead fan to go but if none appeared, I'd be interested. Perhaps seeing them live would explain their massive fan base to me.

On Wednesday night, we drove the 3 1/2 hours down to the Comcast Center in Mansfield which is one of those sterile corporate outdoor amphitheaters that every medium size city and up seems to have. I hadn't been to that large of a facility to see a show since 1995 when I went to Giants Stadium to see Bob Dylan as he opened for The Dead. Besides Wilco at Shelburne Museum, everything had been small clubs and theaters over the last 13 years.

The Comcast Center was a nice place tucked into a wooded lot. The VIP passes allowed us easy access into and out of the place, entry to the hospitality tent and box seats behind the first seated section. The parking is the best part of that package. Not having to wait in line is beautiful. The hospitality tent above was a relaxing place to hang in before the show but the food prices were criminal. Two burgers and four beers between us cost $67 with tip. Ugh.

The box seats were nice though because we had a bit of elbow room and were raised up slightly above the rows in front of us. Plus, the movable chairs made it easier to get comfortable. One thing about the place that shocked me, in contrast to the usual shows I see, was the amount of staff employed for the show. At one point, while waiting for the show to begin, I counted the ushers and security guards. There were 25 of them just in the section between us and the stage. I guess that's why burgers and beers ran us $67.

Grizzly Bear opened the show. Like Radiohead, I'm a bit mystified by their popularity. They sound highly ordinary to me but they get a lot of attention in the blogosphere. I thought seeing them live would explain it to me but...nope.

They still sounded like an Elephant 6 wanna-be band with some nice harmonies and pleasant melodies but no compelling reason to buy any of their stuff.

Note: I like the look on the security guard's face in the shot above. You know he's thinking, "I really wish one of these fuckers would do something wrong; so friggin' bored."

One thing you don't get in small indie clubs is a light show; perhaps a bit of smoke and a strobe light if you're lucky. However, you never see anything on the scale that Radiohead used to entertain my eyeballs.

There was about two dozen long tubes dangling from the rafters that changed colors throughout the show. That was enhanced by a series of lights above and around the stage that cast more color across the band. Then to top it off, they had video of the band running on a screen at the back of the stage and on the jumbotrons on either side of the place.

The cool thing about the video was that the angles and images they caught didn't look like traditional concert footage. By capturing the musicians at weird angles, cutting off their heads, arms, etc., focusing on inactive instruments at times and dividing the screen into quadrants, the video more closely resembled a 7-11 security tape rather than Austin City Limits. It gave you a voyeur feel which was kind of interesting.

You can see the full package of what I'm talking about in this video I shot. It's no Yes in Madison Square Garden in 1985 with laser light geometric shapes spinning over the crowd but it's a nice visual.

As for the music itself, being a lesser fan, I relied on my friend to inform me that they played a lot of In Rainbows, four or five songs from Kid A and OK Computer, one or two from Hail to the Thief, the title track from The Bends and nothing from Pablo Honey.

They clearly know what they are doing and are hyper-polished on stage. And while their quieter songs didn't pull me in, I was definitely enjoying their loud rockers. For some reason their grooves infected me more live than when I had heard the albums.

Thom Yorke's frontman persona is a bit too much of "I'm a tourtured artist who's willing to dance" for me but I have a well-developed callous to that particular portrayal after years of seeing it played out in numerous clubs across the fruited lands over the years. So, it didn't bug me too much.

Bassist Colin Greenwood was sporting a No Age t-shirt which immediately made him my favorite member of the band.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. The light show was fun to watch and they definitely had me bouncing to the groove. It wasn't enough to get me to buy a Radiohead boxset but I'd pay to see them if they came to VT.

The last point about them coming to VT is key because the drive home was brutal. We stopped at two different gas stations on the way home that we knew were 24-hour stations. However, as we later learned, due to cost-cutting measures, they had recently decided to start closing rather than staying open to help the late night stragglers. Fuckers.

The closed gas stations led to us running out of gas at Exit 13 on I-89 in NH. Anyone who has driven on that stretch of highway knows that there isn't anything out there. It's a dead zone unless you're a woodchuck. Luckily, we ran out right at an exit ramp and managed to roll into a closed gas station. Double lucky was the fact that my friend had AAA coverage. It was a long wait for the dude to show up with a can of gas for us (and depressing when the newspapers were delivered) but we eventually got home at 4:30am.

So, like I said, if they come to VT, I'm there...but I'm not staying up until 4:30am again.


Justin Snow said...

I'm in the same boat as your in regards to Radiohead. I can pretty much take 'em or leave 'em.

I actually laughed out loud at your description of Yorke. It just conjured a very funny picture of him in my head.

That sucks about running out of gas. However, you have to admit it at least gave you some more fun stuff to write about in your blog. :)

Anonymous said...

I recall reading a while back that Colin was a huge No Age fan. I can't get No Age out of my head for the life of me.

I'm trying to think what would have been worse...running out of gas or my Montreal experience, where we stood in rain and mud after being led around amusement-park type lines to get in the two small entrances, which followed being sardined into subway cars, the only access to the Parc. I'll go with running out of gas. Much as I love Radiohead, I may have reached my saturation point with them for a bit.


Anonymous said...

LOL! I am that security guard! not bored, I had penty to keep it interesting. A guy puking on the people in front of him, another having a seizure and a jammed pit entrance....just another night at work for me.

jon said...

wait, even if the gas stations were closed, you couldve still paid with the credit card. I know you hate finance charges but its an emergency!