Nothing to Fear, Nothing to Doubt

It was rejuvenating to be back in the City of Angels, where the sun warms the golden sands of Manhattan Beach and music lovers rejoice over the many legendary shows that have been performed there. What brought me to Los Angeles from my cozy San Franciscan home? One band and one band only: Radiohead. My father purchased tickets for the two of us to see the artsy English rock stars at the Shrine Auditorium as a greatly unexpected graduation gift. Naturally, I booked one of the first flights out to L.A. For two months, I scratched the days off my calendar until the glorious August sun rose and I was ready to head off to the airport. Of course, much to my dismay, I ran into various setbacks prior to my flight, including (but not limited to) a half hour traffic delay, a rather extensive pat down from an affectionate security guard, and a massive Delta Airline power outage. I waited there at the San Francisco airport, exhausted already but nonetheless eager, until my boarding call was announced at long last. As I took my seat, I asked myself, “Will all this trouble really be worth it?”

As an aspiring music journalist, I was beyond excited to experience a Radiohead show. I had been listening to their entire discography weeks in advance to fully familiarize myself with all of their work. With albums released from the early 90s to 2016, Radiohead has been an evolving enigma. 

To be completely honest, I knew almost nothing about the group until about the beginning of this year, so I put in the work to find out as much information about them as I possibly could. I listened to all of their diverse works, followed them on social media, watched interviews and other live performances, anything to learn more about their fantastic world, I did. I wanted to head into that concert knowing precisely what I was getting into.

Upon entering the Shrine Auditorium, one would immediately notice the massive size of the venue and exquisite detail of the building. Built originally in 1906 by The Al Malaikah Shriners, their Moorish architectural style has still continued to hold over the years. Holding events varying from the filming of King Kong to the very first Academy Awards Ceremony, it seemed only fitting for Radiohead to play at this exceptional venue. Before Radiohead, the crowd got the chance to experience the hiphop group Shabazz Palaces. Shabazz Palaces is comprised of Ishmael Butler and Dumisani Maraire and was created in 2009 when they anonymously released two EPs. Eventually their EPs caught the attention of various record labels but the group inevitably signed with Sup Pop label making them of the few hip hop artists to sign with the primarily indie/ rock label.I found it quite odd for a rap ensemble to be opening for the dreamy and experimental rock that Radiohead encompasses, but I simply sat back and watched as the duo came onstage. When that first beat dropped, I was taken back by how clear and loud the sound was. I had no idea of the existence of Shabazz Palaces before seeing them live so I was not at all familiar with their discography or sound. At first listen one would immediately just think of them as another hip hop duo but this generalization was quickly washed away by the use of actual instruments. Maraire played harmoniously to the beat on two beautifully crafted congas while Butler rapped over their own beats. Some songs contained some faster rapping while most of them held a steady and rhythmic rap style. They definitely made themselves stand out with the use of actual instruments and their African/ Jazz sound that they instituted. While the crowd wasn’t too enthused about them you could tell they were trying their hardest to get everyone riled up for their own performance and for Radiohead’s performance. Shabazz Palaces kept their spirits high and kept the Auditorium booming with some interesting sounds and beats. Watching them perform I soon realized why they were opening up for Radiohead.

After Shabazz palaces was done with their set, I sat there and stared blankly into the distance and onto the stage where Thom Yorke would be standing until I heard someone yell Tobey Maguire’s name. Sure enough I look behind me to find Tobey Maguire comfortably sitting behind me. Who would’ve thought that I would be sitting in front of Tobey Maguire at a Radiohead show. Finally at long last after much anticipation, they took the stage. The crowd went absolutely ballistic as soon as Thom Yorke and the rest of the band starting to dissapate into their respective places. Radiohead themselves seemed very pleased to be there at the Shrine’s stage that was lined with theatrical lights and a multitude of instruments. And with an amazing delicacy and grace they dove into their opening song “Burn the Witch”. Johnny Greenwood (lead guitarist) masterfully backed Yorke’s vocals, took lead vocals on some songs, and played his Fender Telecaster Plus effortlessly with a beautiful aggressiveness. Meanwhile drummers, Phil Selway and Clive Deamer, played in perfect harmony with each other and the band. Seeing Radiohead perform with two drummers was quite interesting and it seemed quite imperative to their overall sound. After spending an expansive amount of time studying each musician I had finally gotten to bassist Colin Greenwood. Colin Greenwood would often opt to switch between bass and piano and was beyond skilled when playing both of them. Adding an enticing effect to the show was the use of the dazzling lights, flashing everything from an eye-catching blitz of warm and cool colors to a flurry of QR codes above the band members. Although Radiohead seemed fairly comfortable in the spotlight they still seemed humble when receiving a roar of applause after each song. Being everything a frontman should be, Thom Yorke delivered great vocals accompanied by some favorable and smooth dance moves on stage. Radiohead was in control of everything from their instruments to every fan in the Shrine. Had Radiohead told the crowd to lay down and roll over, they wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Witnessing a band who was so in control of a crowd was quite surprising. Fans were often shushing each other on tracks such as “Daydreaming” and “True Love Waits” so as everyone could take in every audible tone of Yorke’s haunting voice. Fans had no problem being hushed mostly due to the fact that they have all waited so long to be graced by the band’s musical presence. Radiohead played almost half of A Moon Shaped Pool, a decent amount of tracks off of The King of Limbs, and multiple tracks off of almost all of their discography. They played everything from “2+2=5” to “Bodysnatcher”. The fans were not letting Radiohead leave before performing not one but two encores. Boy did they play. Radiohead left us wanting more and wondering when they would be back. They emitted a wonderfully cosmic sound of perfect harmony, giving us a show that was a beautiful on all levels.

 

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I’m Gonna Keep You in Love With Me

My mind had been on its own journey all day, often forgetting that it was going to be experiencing The National that night. I thought to myself how seeing The National would help me focus on things other than my life at the moment. I had been anticipating this show for a couple of months now and it was hard to believe I would be seeing them at long last. The National had become one of my favorite bands after my father introduced me to their music so being able to cross them off my must see bucket list was a great feeling.

Upon arriving to the Greek Theatre one would immediately notice the massive line wrapping around the venue. I hopped out of the car and quickly got into line so as to secure a spot as I waited for both my sister and dad. I had never been to the Greek Theatre so I didn’t know quite what to expect and I quite frankly was a bit distressed about not getting a good spot once inside. Within a blink of an eye we were inside the massive theatre. I analyzed the venue and the audience members once I settled into my cozy seat on the side. The venue seemed to provide ample room for everyone which was a pleasant surprise. I waited there patiently for The National to come on but before that The Lone Bellow would provide some entertainment for us.

The band started playing quicker than most; jumping right into their folky  Americana setlist. The Lone Bellow was comprised of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist so the stage seemed a bit big for them, but they filled the airspace with enough sound for all to hear. I wasn’t paying as much attention to the band as they deserved not because they didn’t sound good, but merely because my mind was focused on one thing at the moment: The National. Regardless the crowd seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their performance. Both Zach and Brian often amped up the audience or initiated a unison of clapping. It wasn’t their guitar playing that would inevitably set The Lone Bellow apart but their soul. You could tell that Zach and Brian were truly singing their hearts and souls out. The band cared what they were playing, who they were playing for, and more importantly the message they were sending. This proved to be a distinctive quality of the band and one that the night would carry on with The National. At one point they brought Aaron Dessner from The National onto the stage to play with them. Overall, The Lone Bellow was nothing I took a particular interest in not due to their performance, but more due to my own musical preferences. They had put on a good performance if you were familiar with their work, but I still admired the heart and soul they put into their music

Before you knew it, I had popped up and was manically clapping as Matt and the rest of the band took the stage at long last. “Please,  Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” accompanied the darkness as the band walked on stage. The band opened up with fan favorite “Don’t Swallow the Cap”. The Greek Theatre was a perfect venue for the National to play at. A massive screen captured whatever empty space was behind the band themselves while the stadium provided copious amounts of room not only for the audience but also for the band. Watching the band perform, one could easily tell how comfortable they had become performing in front of an exorbitant amount of people. They sounded as clean and sorrowful as they did on their studio albums. Brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner were often given segments where they playfully played off of each others sound. In addition, the band treated us to a multitude of new songs often cracking some quirky and subtle jokes beforehand. The band as a whole, communicated well both musically and emotionally. Drummer Bryan Devendorf really united the band with his drumming often adding in multiple beats and utilizing all of his drum kit to create a unique sound that really defines The National. Meanwhile, Matt Beringer sang with the same soulful sadness that accompanies his heartfelt lyrics often encompassing me into a sort of trance and making me completely forget where I was. They played songs spanning from Alligator to their most recent album Trouble Will Find Me engrossing us into a magnificent show for about an hour and forty five minutes cutting their setlist short by a song or two due to the curfew set by the venue. The National had hypnotized the entire theater for the night and sent me into a certain kind of heaven, making me forgot my troubles and if they would ever find me.

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