Radiohead at Madison Square Garden (7-26-16)

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With special guests, Dawn of Midi


It’s 6:30pm. I’ve arrived at exactly the time that the doors would open for the show. The line is long, but it’s not so long that it loops around The Garden and spills onto another street; at least not from my perspective. The line slowly progresses; by the time I reach the front, I would find out that, as is customary with most other concerts, security lets people in by the cluster, with progress halting on account of the security checks. Admittedly, with everything that has happened as of late, this doesn’t come as a surprise, especially considering a big a venue as The Garden.

I’m gushing with a friend, M, who I only just got to meet in person as we took our places in line. We talk about other bands, and the conversation always loops back to Radiohead, and what to expect, or rather, what not to expect, from their setlist. The customary “tradition” that has been present on this tour so far is to play the first five songs off their latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool (another stellar effort by them if I may add), followed by cuts spanning from as early as The Bends to 2011’s The King of Limbs. Two songs I keep hoping they’ll bring back to their setlists are “Morning Bell” and “Life in a Glasshouse,” though the latter may never make an appearance anytime soon; it only really shines when it’s accompanied by its signature jazz section.

M and I got seats in different sections, but we see each other after the show. The band that opens for Radiohead is a Brooklyn-based experimental three-piece called Dawn of Midi. For the entirety of their show, there are no vocals. One plays at a very modest synth set-up, another at the drums, and the third at what must be the cello. The harmonies and rhythms are swirling, carefully constructed, and have some dark auras to them. Yet the moods shift over the course of the 40-minute set. First they grab the audience, making them really feel what they’re listening to, and then they effortlessly segue into the next section, inviting those who can muster room to to dance. It culminates into an explosive, very rhythm heavy finale. It’s the kind of music that makes me feel like I’m going further and further down a dark cavern housed by spirits of all kinds, and I am amazed that all of these melodies can be achieved with a synth, drums, and a cello. The applause is loud, strong, and inviting. Openers can be a hit or miss depending on the artist, of course, and while a lot of openers can be established artists in their own right, often times many feel like they’re just a placeholder until the headlining band shows up. But Dawn of Midi have a promising feel to them. Radiohead have always prided themselves on perfection, and after seeing Dawn of Midi open for them, it is easy to see why these five lads chose the young outfit to open for them.

Some time passes. The lights go out, and everyone immediately loses their minds. A sound recording of a conversation between two people, one asking the other what they think freedom is, the second person replying that “it’s just a feeling” (which has preceded all their shows since the start of this tour), begins to play. Colin, Jonny, Phil, Ed, Clive, and Thom appear on stage, and Clive and Phil begin the drum rhythm that signals the beginning of “Burn the Witch.” Everyone begins to sing along with the start of that first note. Three songs later, the crowd has only gotten louder. Two drunk imbeciles shove their way to as close to the front of the GA pit, the side further away from the stage, as possible. It’s frustrating, but I try not to let it get the best of me, especially considering that the band start up “Ful Stop.” The song invites a wild dance and is infectious as usual, but of course, it sounds even better live.

“Lotus Flower” comes next, and then “The National Anthem,” a song they usually don’t play until the second half of their sets. When it comes to “Anthem,” Jonny usually brings in a radio, one he perhaps programmed himself, so that when he “tunes it to a random station,” it plays one of two things: a random sound recording of broadcast news, or an excerpt from a politician’s speech. It’s news this time, and the name Clinton comes up in the recording after the song ends. Everyone loses their minds during the song, and even more so when the name comes up.

I hear songs that haven’t appeared since the start of the tour, like “Separator,” and songs that they have yet to play on the tour, like “15 Step.” The group ends the main set with “Idioteque,” a cut that always invites in both singing along from the crowd and the occasional erratic dancing, especially from frontman Thom, due in large part to its robotic-electronic sound effects and dance-infested progression.

The band come back on for an encore. They start it with several notes that immediately sound familiar. The audience erupts. It’s the opening to “Let Down,” and as a crowd member nearby points out, as they have setlist.fm open, it’s a song they have not performed in ten years. The singing half comes from Thom, and half from the audience. The boys have managed to give their audience everything they could have hoped for, and more, yet again. A couple more songs, and they walk off the stage yet again. The crowd, myself included, beg for more. The band obliges, walking back onstage, and Thom quips something along the lines of, “You’d like to stay all night, right?” The crowd cheers in eager response.

The second encore only lasts, like with the past concerts on the tour, two songs. But honestly, after being away from the band in terms of live performances for so long, they’re two songs the crowd does their best to tightly hold onto. Over two half and a half hours, and it feels as if we walked in through the gates only three songs ago. Thom takes the stage and the mic, ready with his guitar to play “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” but not before one last line of banter to close the night.

“Thank you all. Truly, thank you very much.”

As Q Magazine wrote only a month ago, here was a band who was away for five years with a frontman who, despite being dedicated to this band and its music, was worried that its fans had given up, or stopped caring. And here he stands tonight, thanking us all as if they were still that band that, approximately twenty years prior, had just introduced the word to songs like “Creep” or “Anyone Can Play Guitar.”

No, thank you Thom. Thank you, Jonny. Colin. Ed. Phil. And Clive, even if you’re just touring with them for the time being. Thank you for a night I’ll never forget.


Setlist (courtesy of Setlist.fm)

  1. Burn the Witch (w/ extended intro)
  2. Daydreaming
  3. Decks Dark
  4. Desert Island Disk
  5. Ful Stop
  6. Lotus Flower
  7. The National Anthem
  8. 15 Step (tour debut)
  9. No Surprises
  10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
  11. Separator
  12. Planet Telex
  13. The Numbers
  14. 2 + 2 = 5
  15. Everything in Its Right Place
  16. Myxomatosis
  17. Idioteque

First Encore

  1. Let Down (tour debut, first performance since 2006)
  2. Present Tense
  3. Paranoid Android
  4. Nude
  5. Bodysnatchers

Second Encore

  1. Bloom
  2. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
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