Radiohead @ The Greek Theatre at UC-Berkeley
A curse upon Berkeley and its grossly inadequate parking.
As early as last summer, you could park in the garage near the Greek Theater. Now it’s for UC permits only. You can’t even buy a spot anymore (unless an enterprising student is willing to sell you their space, which I gladly purchased for a reasonable $15).
It took 40 minutes to find a spot. By this point I had missed Oakland-based Deerhoof, which is really stupid. As we walked up the steps we were greeted by “You and Whose Army?” off of the underrated Amnesiac. It was surreal to see Radiohead so close. Their last two appearances in the Bay have been at the Shoreline. Even with good seats, bands seem far away at the Shoreline. Not so at the Greek, the band is almost on top of you.
The Greek is packed. Tickets were going for as much as $300. To see arguably the most important rock ‘n’ roll band in a setting like this feels special. Radiohead was dressed fashionably urban, with t-shirts and button ups. Thom Yorke wore a sweater with a collared shirt underneath.
The band broke into “Morning Bell” and “The National Anthem” and the audience danced and sang along. Then they tried some new stuff and lost some of the crowd. I never thought it could happen. I consider myself a huge fan. I buy the EPs and overpriced import singles. Their new stuff sounds, dare I say it, a little too adult contemporary, a little too soft and accessible. Call me crazy, but Radiohead are at their best when they are making challenging, art rock, with tons of instruments sprinkled in for texture. The Bends and Pablo Honey are great, but these albums show their age. When they played “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” it sounded like 90′s mood music.
For a third of the concert they played new material from their forthcoming album. This wasn’t surprising, as Radiohead will never be the kind of band that feels like they have to play their hits. And they didn’t. No “Karma Police,” no “Fake Plastic Trees,” no “High and Dry,” and especially no “Creep.” What was surprising, was that the new music didn’t seem to catch the fans.
To be fair, the live arena is not always the best way for a fan to process new material. It’s easy to miss a lot of the nuances that make Radiohead so great. The band bounced back with the anthems, “I Might Be Wrong” and “Idioteque,” as well as “There, There” (which I thought was the best performance of the night). The band seemed happy with the crowds’ response and Yorke had some amazing timing with the fans. He could just stop and stare in silence from his piano bench, and the crowd would go nuts. “Airbag” and “Everything in Its Right Place” capped the show, and reminded everyone why they still matter.