The music world went into complete meltdown a couple of weeks back when Radiohead finally emerged with a new record. We'd been told to expect it but never actually given any proper release date or any concrete info at all really. Then all of a sudden there it was, the band's first record since 2011's The King of Limbs.
Kicking off a short world tour, Thom Yorke and co opened their first live performances in over three years at Amsterdam's Heineken music Hall. The first of two sold out shows at the venue, further testament to how relevant an outfit Radiohead still are following their incredible ninth album A Moon Shaped Pool.
In recent memory, barring maybe the Roses Manchester homecoming gigs, there's not been any act that's generated such a huge sense of anticipation for a live return. Something felt in abundance in the moments leading up to the band's appearance, when a multi-national crowd fell into complete silence as a backing track began creeping through the speakers.
Cue pandemonium then when the opening drumbeat of 'Burn The Witch' took over(See fan footage below). Kicking off a completely different rendition than the album version. Minus the string section of the recording, a more guitar laden, old school Radiohead treatment was given to the album's opening track. Exploding and coming to a head around the same time Johnny Greenwood blasted through the final solo using a violin bow.
Pace was shifted when they followed album order with 'Daydreaming', as once again the audience fell into utter silence, partly in admiration for what was going on around them right there and partly still in shock from the rendition of 'Burn the Witch'. For a band that's not toured in so long, even one filled with some of the most talented musicians around, the transition back into performing was effortless.
'Daydreaming' provided a more intense evaluation of Yorke's vocals, something that also seem to have quickly readjusted to playing live. The wonderful droning, the high pitched piercing, completely one of a kind singing style, still standing the test of the stage thirty odd years on. 'The Daily Mail' was another stunning example of Yorke's lullaby like style, providing another beautiful moment of being completely awestruck.
There was a pretty even split of old and new throughout the set, 'Decks Dark', 'Desert Island Disc', 'Full Stop', 'Identikit', all appearing from the new record. 'The Numbers' however, making for one of the most impressive performances of the new material. By this point Radiohead were playing with two drummers in a set that seemed to have new instruments constantly added. It certainly gave a whole new dimension though, with every snare rattle and bass drum thud sounding twice as prominent.
With such a range of instrumentation on show, it's baffling how every individual managed to keep timing to the millisecond, with not a note sounding out of place. Particularly when it came to the more electronic percussion driven era, with tracks like 'Idioteque'. The mind boggling speed of Selway's drumming reinforced how much individual talent makes up the outfit.
Though there was always going to be some huge exclusions in the setlist, there was one inclusion that sent everyone into a momentary shock. 'My Iron Lung' (Watch it performed live below) which hasn't been played live in over seven years was snuck into the middle of the main set. Much to the delight of just about everyone in the room, in particular Johnny Greenwood, as the focus quickly switched to him and his guitar.
In the first of two encores, there was one last appearance from A Moon Shaped Pool in the form of 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor...' (Watch fan footage below) but that was predictably eclipsed by a track that arguably catapulted Radiohead to where they are today in 'Paranoid Android'. Again displaying Johnny Greenwood's unparalleled guitar skills, in turn transporting the whole show seamlessly back nearly two decades.
Recapturing the pure chaos that was a 1997 Radiohead, crashes of cymbal and manic guitar riffs firing from every angle. A nice touch, seeing they still had it in them even after the endless different directions they've travelled down since that famous tracks conception.
After reappearing for a second time to a crowd that were never going to leave until they did, Yorke a man famously of very few words seemed genuinely humbled as did the rest of the band, as they said a sincere thank you, before spine tingling sombre renditions of 'You and Whose Army' and 'Reckoner', before disappearing one final time.
Setlist wise, it was pretty much perfect for every different era fan of Radiohead. A common nitpick with their more recent stuff has been a lack of guitars, but with material from the new record being reworked to sound more classic Radiohead that want was satisfied. The dark, unsettling lullabies were there as was Thom's obsession with pushing boundaries and experimenting with electronic percussion. It had everything.
Still though, it has an uneasy feeling that it could maybe be a swan song, giving fans one final taste of it all before departing. Hopefully not though, it's easy to read far too much into it with Radiohead, it's always been both a blessing and a curse for their fans.
Take The Cure, they've mastered not playing songs for decades only to unearth them years later, hopefully that's what is going on. Especially when they are still so blatantly strong, and more relevant than ever it would be a tragedy to lose them now.