Concert Review

Radiohead have a triumphant return to Pittsburgh (PPG Arena) after 21 years

“Finally,” the Radiohead fans of Pittsburgh gasped in unison when their return, after a 21-year hiatus of performing in the city, was announced.  Pretty sure it was nothing personal, although some believe it had something to do with Thom Yorke’s disdain or corporate sponsorship.  Thus many Pittsburghers, like myself, had to travel, including their last closest performance to the Blossom Music Center Cleveland in 2012.  And an amazing performance that was, but that did not do the ‘Burgh much good until July 26, 2018.

So, one can say there was much anticipation for Radiohead’s return.  As a fan, you best be familiar with their last release A Moon Shaped Pool, or you may be disappointed at the lack of familiar material.  That is not to say that their performance was anything less than brilliant, but if you were waiting for “Creep” (then you know very little about Radiohead shows) and if “Fake Plastic Trees” was mindblowing to you, well you had to wait a bit.  Starting with the ambient “Daydreaming”, the band was definitely in the zone from the start.  From there they continued with their signature atmospheric sound. The fifth tune “Airbag” dates back to 1997 and really got the crowd emotionally moving as Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien’s guitar work is a bit more prevalent.  That is not to take away from bass player Colin Greenwood and dual drummers Philip Selway and Clive Deamer and their contributions, for every mechanism of Radiohead works in perfect syncopation.

The oval-shaped screen in the back of the band portrayed thematic colors, psycho-active stimulators, and frenetic images of the band in live performance, as much a part of the show as the music.  But it is vocalist/instrumentalist Thom Yorke who is the most captivating of all, using various pitches, ranges, and computer effects to generate an energy through his voice, an ebb and flow of intensity set against introspection.  The moments he steps away from the mic and dances with abandon are some of the most entertaining moments and the genuine smile that overcame him at many moments was extremely telling and refreshing.

This writer cannot help but be pleasantly biased with songs like “The National Anthem,” “King of Limbs” (explaining that “It’s a bit of Barry Manilow. Is that OK? Nothing wrong with a little Barry Manilow.” and making some definitive parallels regarding current American news outlets by stating how publications can, “try to destroy people’s lives”, “Fake Plastic Trees,” (just epic really), and the downright genius “Paranoid Android”.  The only ‘glitch’ of the whole evening may have been when Yorke seemed to forget the words to “Separator,” though no one in the audience seemed to be bothered.  It was an evening that was unforgettable and hopefully will not take 21 years to repeat again. Full setlist here.

All photos © 2018 AWeldingphoto