Radiohead at 3Arena, Dublin, 20 June 2017
Back in Ireland after a nine-year absence, Radiohead took to Dublin’s 3Arena to play their final show ahead of Friday’s headline slot at Glastonbury, the quintet’s third time topping the Pyramid Stage bill. If tonight is anything to go by they’re in for a treat. The band are in fine form as they blast their way through a sprawling set of twenty-five songs covering most corners of their extensive back catalogue.
As the house lights fade, a hushed silence descends upon the docklands venue as the twinkling of keys ease us into opener Daydreaming, from last year’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. It’s a risky move opening with such a delicate song but given tonight sold out instantly, they know they’re preaching to the converted here. The lighting remains subdued until halfway through the song when fractured spotlights illuminate the vast room. The effect is striking and hits home instantly as phones are withdrawn almost instantly for photos.
Things are kept low-key as we’re brought through the meandering Desert Island Disk and the menacing Ful Stop until arcing guitar stabs from Johhny Greenwood brings us into tonight’s first classic, Airbag.
What follows is an extensive trip through the band’s archive with every album – excluding their debut ‘Pablo Honey’ – getting at least a single song performed.
With its 5/4 timing, 15 Step is near impossible for anyone to clap along to (luckily nobody tries) but it showcases the band at their most rhythmically arresting. My Iron Lung brings us back to a time when their sound was a lot more straightforward but still has guitarist Jonny Greenwood angularly thrashing around the stage as though he’s playing a far smaller and dingier venue.
It only takes a tease of Everything In Its Right Place for those attending to catch on and no time is wasted getting into its customary clap along. If the stage looks a little sparser during this song it’s because both Greenwood and O’Brien are hunched over their pedalboards getting themselves entangled in all manner of electronic wizardry as we’re led down the rabbit hole.
With its booming kick drums and glitching synth, Idioteque sounds like it’s announcing the end of the world with a rave. Which wouldn’t be surprising as it’s a definite contender for the most danceable song about global warming.
The National Anthem maintains a similar aesthetic with its electric red strobes. The hypnotically distorted bassline underpins seemingly unending guitar sustain as Greenwood motions around the stage as though he’s steering a remote control car as he plays none other than a transistor radio.
Crowd interaction is kept to a minimum (at one stage Yorke even encourages us to talk amongst ourselves) but this doesn’t take away from his abilities as a frontman. Effortlessly slipping between singalong raconteur with an acoustic guitar slinked over his shoulder to rave conductor as when we’re lead through the heavier electronic aspects of the set.
The rest of the band more than excel at their respective roles. Drum and bass combo of Phil Sedway and Colin Greenwood, along with touring drummer Clive Deamer, hold down the complex rhythms from the back of the stage. At the front, Ed O’Brien towers over the stage, staying firm footed and serious throughout. He only breaks rank to hunch over and tinker with his variety of guitar pedals or add his grossly underrated backing vocals.
Centre stage, Yorke flails around like nobody’s watching. This leave’s musical prodigy Johnny Greenwood to thrash around, long hair flailing. Perhaps calling Greenwood a prodigy does the rest of the band a disservice as they’re all clearly musicians at the top of their game, but watching Greenwood move between guitar, synth, piano, glockenspiel, drums and of course, a transistor radio, it’s clear he’s the musical standout tonight.
What closes out tonight, and the second of two encores is the sobering How To Disappear Completely. Its fourth line gets a massive cheer and it’s not by accident. It’s due to Yorke namechecking the river that snakes through Dublin’s capital and which upon whose banks this venue sits. They exit the stage not with a bang but with a careful trail of sound. Given the opener, it’s a very fitting bookend. We sincerely hope they don’t leave it as long until next time.