The Captain Learns From The Idioteque

The greatest rock band of the past twenty years, Radiohead, played St. Louis tonite.  This was the 3rd time I’ve seen Radiohead here in St. Louis, and the 6th time they’ve played the Gateway City.  My two previous concerts were both at Riverport Amphitheater, and they varied greatly in quality.  In 1995, Radiohead was the opening band for R.E.M. and it was an incredible show.  They played almost every song from The Bends; my high school friends and I went crazy.  The lads came back to Riverport in 2003 and played most of Hail To The Thief, which I consider to be their second worst album.  It was largely forgettable.

Fittingly, the show tonite at Scottrade Center was somewhere between the first two.  It was good, not great.  Pretty much what I expected.  But I did learn a thing or two at the show, which is the topic for the Friday 5 I’m posting before  going silent for the rest of the month.


Top 5 Things I learned At Radiohead’s Concert On March 9th


1.  The band isn’t heavily invested in their back catalogue

I had a feeling that the setlist would be heavier on new tunes, and I was correct.  Radiohead played most of the songs from their last album, King Of Limbs, and several new tracks.  While this was somewhat expected, I was a little surprised at how little old material the band played through the first 2/3rds of the show.  They repeatedly broke the #1 rule in Rock ‘n Roll: don’t play two new songs back to back.  Every time they broke the rule, I could see waves of people heading for the exits for a piss or a beer.

The first old song they played was Airbag, and the crowd went wild.  Then two more new songs and the first mass crowd exodus.  I’m sure that kind of thing is noticeable on stage, but I don’t think the band really cares at this point.


2.  Scottrade’s alphabet is catered to Radiohead

I had a feeling that Radiohead would be playing mostly newer material, so I decided to go for the cheapest tickets available.  For $60 a ticket they can play whatever they want.  For over $100 a ticket they better stick with the hits.  Even though I went with the cheap seats, I logged on the first minute they went on sale so I figured the tickets wouldn’t be that bad.  Our seats were in row R and dead center in the nose bleed section.  Typically the worst seats in the house start once the letters start doubling up, so I thought a single R should be decent.  R for Radiohead!

Turns out it’s R for Rear.  We were in the highest seats, up against the wall.  Still, even in the very back we could still see decently thanks to the crazy set design.



There were numerous monitors hanging from the ceiling, and they featured extreme close ups of all the band members.  This surprising clarity was good for the most part, except when they chose to focus on Thom Yorke’s lazy eye.

3.  Radiohead needs to harness their creativity by constantly looking forward

While I wasn’t thrilled that Radiohead was playing mostly new music, I understood why they were doing so as the evening progressed.  Continuing to make relevant music after twenty years in the business must be difficult since so few bands succeed for that long.  By the twenty year mark most bands are content to stick with the hits.  But Radiohead has always fought to stay relevant, and I’m guessing that touring with new material is one of the ways they accomplish this goal.

Looks wise, the band has stayed remarkably similar.1 Phil the drummer still has a giant shaved head.  The Greenwood brothers still look like A/V geeks, especially Jonny with his shaggy bangs.



Thom is still sporting a variation of his unshaven vagabond look.



About the only change is that Ed O’Brien is dressing a bit sharper nowadays.



All of that is to say that the band has eliminated past distractions like fighting with Clear Channel or their record company and decided to focus on making relevant music.  And while most of my favorite Radiohead songs will probably always be from their first ten years, there are still lots of people who love the new tunes just as much as the old.  I respect Radiohead for refusing to coast on the triumphs of the past, but I was still the guy yelling “Play some old shit” throughout the show.


4.  McBride & Sons don’t like Radiohead

The venue for the show looked like it usually does when a big concert comes to town.  There’s only so much a band can do with a hockey arena, so they went the 2/3rd stage.  It looked pretty standard, except for the empty suite on the ground level.  There is a box on the field at Scottrade Center, which allows rich folks to enjoy the ground level view without having to mingle with the commoners.  But I guess Radiohead is too arty for the wealthy, because the suite was noticeably empty the entire evening.  The field box is covered in a large sponsorship by a local builder, which lead to the ongoing joke that McBride & Sons don’t like Radiohead.


5.  Thom Yorke is tired of playing Karma Police

By far the most memorable part of the evening was Thom Yorke forgetting the lyrics to Karma Police.  During the second verse he just stopped singing at one point and then let out a small chuckle.  By this point it was already pretty obvious the band was going through the motions when playing older material, so this little slip actually brought some much needed levity to the situation.  During the next refrain, Thom made a great save by changing the lyrics to “This is what you get, when you forget the words.”  The crowd went wild, and the whole band gave a little grin.  It was a genuine moment that really connected with the crowd.  Sadly, I’m guessing that five years from now this will probably be the only thing I remember from the evening.

And with that, I’m out of here.  See you in April!




The Captain


1.  Thanks to The Riverfront Times for these great pictures.

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