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Live Review: Radiohead Top Themselves at San Jose’s HP Pavilion

In Music
Radiohead's show at HP last night featured amazing stage design and lighting. Photo by Debbie Bongiovanni.

Radiohead's show at HP last night featured amazing stage design and lighting. Photo by Debbie Bongiovanni.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there is no arguing that Radiohead is one of the biggest and most enduring bands of the last 20 years. Their tour landed at HP Pavilion last night to a sold-out crowd, and the band ripped through 23 songs spanning their entire career.

King of Limbs, their most recent album, was featured heavily, with nearly every song off the album played. The very electronic, highly percussive album with strange time signatures was far from a standard rock record, and when it came out over a year ago, the band said they weren’t sure how they would pull off some of the songs live. They added a sixth member, Portishead’s touring drummer Clive Deamer, to help.

Turns out the live versions of King of Limbs’ songs were better than the studio takes. The intricate percussion was done to great effect. In addition to the new record, the band featured songs off of every album except their first, Pablo Honey. They also played a previously unreleased song, “Identikit,” along with two songs making their first appearances on this tour: “I Might Be Wrong,” from 2001’s Amnesiac and “Planet Telex,” the opening track from their 1995 album The Bends. Both were highlights of the evening.

In stark contrast to their somber reputation, the band seemed to be in great spirits and truly enjoying what they were doing. Thom Yorke was in an unusually chatty mood; he joked with the crowd early on saying “Where am I?” The crowd’s response was lackluster at first, but after a few tries, they roared back “San Jose.” Yorke smiled and when he came back for the encore he screamed “Hello San Jose!” Throughout the night he riffed on politics, Silicon Valley, and even the rain. It was the most talkative I have seen the frontman in the 10 or so times I’ve seen them play.

The stage and light show was truly out of this world. The light wall, made of recycled plastic bottles, was mesmerizing and elegant. Going from subdued to all-out visual assualt to fit the mood of the songs, it was their grandest display yet of lighting and stage design.

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