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.