adriaan@ateaseweb.com

09-06-01

BBC Studios, London, UK



01. cinnamon girl [not broadcast]
02. my iron lung [not broadcast]
03. national anthem
04. morning bell
05. lucky
06. packt like sardines in a crushd tin box
07. no surprises
08. dollars and cents
09. life in a glass house
10. exit music
11. i might be wrong
12. street spirit
13. paranoid android
14. idioteque
15. everything in it's right place
16. pyramid song [not broadcast]
17. talk show host [not broadcast]
18. you and whose army [not broadcast]
19. how to disappear [not broadcast]
20. knives out [not broadcast]
21. the bends [not broadcast]

Humprey Lyttelton played the trumpet on 'Life in a glass house'. It was also the first live performance of this song.

by Ian
Later . . . with Jools Holland
7:40pm to 12:15am, Saturday, 9-06-01
(This is a half-post, re: mostly ‘observational’ (not emotional) elements of before and after the parts of the evening which were broadcast on television. I’ll add more about the part that was broadcast tomorrow, with other tidbits. All quotes are my best remembrance, and probably semantically incorrect, though I think I’ve got the spirit of things down pretty well. Sorry for the length, but hopefully if you’re bothering to read it it’ll be interesting to you. Please, no pointless bashing about the length—I was excited, and you would be too.)
I got my notification of tickets in the post yesterday morning, having received no phone call, but having had an illogical feeling of relaxed certainty that I would be going to the performance. I spent yesterday trying to find someone to go with me (which, you would imagine, would not have been difficult—but I either couldn’t contact the people I wanted to come, or those people had prior engagements) and ended up taking a flatmate, a very casual ‘fan’ of the band.
After the day spent meandering around a rarely sunny London (and eating at the amazing ‘tai’ restaurant on Greek street back from Foyles), we headed west down the Piccadilly to Hammersmith and up to shepherds bush. We wound our way around the perimeter of the BBC complex to the ‘general public – main entrance’. After only 40 minutes in queue (we arrived at about 7:40, I think,) the Beeb types started letting us in. Showed them the letter, identification, got two nice big shiny black tickets. We were apparently the 24th and 25th people in, as they put numbered stickers onto our tickets as we made our way into ‘the foyer’ lounge where free Becks and Smirnoff ice were being served (of which I think I was the only person present not partaking). The lp was played over the pa as the ‘fashionably late’ looks-set and connected yuppies showed up to crowd into and hobnob with pink-haired ‘alternative, man’ kids with huge rave trousers, a man with an astounding mullet, some hipster punk kids, and various ‘normal’ 20- to 40-somethings. Quite a mixed bag, which is, I think, a good thing (or, so I choose to believe).
At about 9:45pm, the pa began calling for us to head for the studio. It called for ‘tickets stickered numbers 1-50, please’ which included me, though I was on the wrong side of the lobby because within literally 10 seconds, they continued ‘ok, now 51-100,’ and so on, at the same silly pace, so that by the time I could get to the proper exit, I was behind what was surely 100 people. We made our way like lemmings through the fortress o’ Beeb, finally reaching ‘studio 6’. Somehow when my flatmate and I made it into the studio, though, we found the (very small) floor still bizarrely sparsely populated. Perhaps they figured out some means of allowing those who’d shown up early to get their rightful places, I don’t know for sure. In any case, what resulted was that I found my self dead center stage, behind 2 mercifully small rows of people, about 9 feet from Thom’s mic. After ‘Boo’ the house manager prepped the audience on the course the evening was to take, Jools came out and did a bit, mainly parodying the actual prep-speech. He was likeably funny.
Then, as scheduled, some 15 minutes before ‘showtime,’ Radiohead came onstage. They were collectively smiling, excited, friendly, maybe slightly nervous (though they hardly showed it). Thom, if you don’t know, is a very small bloke and (though I know it is sizeist of me,) comes across as very cute and lovable in person. Ed, as usual, looked like a bloody brad pitt movie star, and Jonny looked cool as ever, hair wagging faithfully about his eyes. Colin’s hair has become quite shaggy and he looks like a lost member of the kinks circa mid 60’s (and, as you may have seen on the broadcast, is also lovably cute in the way he merely rocks from one foot to the other almost like a kid pretending to march—I’ve never seen them close enough to notice these sorts of things). Phil—is Phil, the only member fairly clearly not hanging on desperately to the ability to look young and oh-so-hip (though the others pull it off awfully well fore blokes in their 30’s—just joking, older readers).
At this juncture, the broadcast had not begun—at this point, it was for the ~450 people in the studio. Thom said hello, the band big smiles all around, and said "now we’re gonna mess up an old song," the band then launching into a truly ‘rockin’ rendition of Neil Young’s "Cinnamon Girl" from the same album that Ida and Low have drawn successful covers. I wouldn’t have guessed the song would be a good fit, but the performance was tight, raucous, vibrant—and very fun. (So for all the people who think these blokes take themselves too seriously—hardly so, hardly at all. Their sheer enjoyment of making music is instantly clear in their faces, their body language, their words, and, obviously, their performance.) With a few laughs, they went into a blazing, rejuvenated "My Iron Lung".
The band left the stage, hovering just in the wings, and ten minutes passed. In the studio, there was a big crane and camera rig, and the producers wanted to begin the show with Jools sitting slightly right of center stage on the lip of the 2-foot high stage, this crane thing lifting from 6 feet high to 15 after he’d done his thing, revealing a ‘pre positioned’ Radiohead. Well, wouldn’t you know, amidst a sea of small people, the crew needed to put the camera right where my head was, the top of which reaches 6’2" off the ground. Some very friendly crew asked me to move left and for the bit of the crowd there to "part like the sea for Moses" so that the crane could have an unobstructed view of Jools.
That accomplished, Jools took his place. The band followed, clearly ready to go, accompanied by a jazz brass sextet. Cameras commenced rolling, a count down was heard, and then Jools started, "It’s Friday night . . . It’s not Friday night at all, is it?". You saw all of that, though. The funny part here was that when he said "whose albums like these rocket up the charts" Thom, crouched behind him, said quietly, ". . . and back down again," prompting laughter from the audience which may have been a bit confusing to those at home. The crane goes up, safely over my head, and . . . (you know this bit, mostly, so here I skip an hour.)
We’d been told at the beginning by "Boo" that after the broadcast hour, the band would come back and play for another 30 minutes un-broadcast for the house. After an absolutely brilliant performance of "Everything In Its Right Place" (the last minute or two of which you may not have seen at home) and a short break, the band came back on stage, still visibly enjoying the moment, still primed, but clearly more relaxed.
The old piano (which Jools introduced at an earlier point as "Albert" when the mix crew needed an applause test) was moved downstage, and Colin readied the upright. Thom wobbled his way to the bench, said, "now we’re going to attempt a rendition of pyramid song". The performance was sparse, haunting, and vigourously fragile. Thom scuttled forward and said, "This [meaning the encore, I am supposing] is for Radio 1, apparently". After a pause of deft comic timing, he added, with his best devilishly charming politician’s smile, "but mostly, it’s for * you *". The old black apple-stickered guitar was brought out and involved in an extra-fuzzed, extra paranoid, completely spot on "Talk-show Host". The ‘freak-out’ section was shorter than usual, but was far more menacing and intense. The audience recognized the song and clapped within the first couple tell-tale notes, which to me signaled a fairly aware and interested audience.
Albert was brought back forward, and Thom said, "this is a song that is supposedly about Tony Blair. Well, it’s not. It’s about any leader with an overwhelming desire for power. There’s got to be something wrong in their heads. It’s especially sad when clearly the government isn’t even really running things," to which he added meekly, "that’s what I think, anyway". The audience teased him with happy-clappy church congregation responses; Thom smiled a childish grin, cupped his hands around the mic (the high-tech secret to how they got that ‘1930’s radio microphone sound’) and started "You and Whose Army". It was a deft performance, which I felt had more energy and cheek than the recorded version.
Then familiar eerie sustained noise emanated from the Jonny’s fingertip and his Eno toy analogue synth—"Jonny’s got to tune up his Strange Machine," said Thom. This joking lead into a staggeringly beautiful "How to Disappear" (suddenly less sad given that the show I’d been witnessing was a clear sign that the period which inspired the song’s alienation was healed). Like "You and Whose Army," I felt this song benefited from greater intensity (if sacrificing ethereal fragility) than on record.
Then: "This song is dedicated tonight to all those journalists who heard Kid A one time and said ‘eh, they’ve lost it’". Knives Out, very out, a buoyant performance, with an astute balance between sonic catchiness and lyrically ironical wasteland-scenario psychobabble. Somewhere in this third set was a blazing and playful "The Bends," which was dedicated to S-club-7, "found off the streets," at the ironical behest of an audience member. The dedication was followed by a spontaneous and truly hilarious skit of sorts involving at least Ed and Thom about "smoking the weeeeed," performed in cartoon-voice whispers accompanied by pantomime "smoking the weeeed" by the boys. It may have been juvenile, but at least it shows how much fun this group of friends, not just bandmates, is having right now. Unfortunately, I’m not really certain where "The Bends" falls in the set—it might have been in the broadcast set, it might’ve closed the last set. Someone who was there—help me out, please.
When it was all done Thom collected the CD that had been thrown to him earlier, signed a couple of things. I walked forward, handed him a copy of my records that I hadn’t already given Phil in Oxford, said "thanks," took his smile, smiled back. Then the band walked out, and many of the audience stood around basically stunned for a couple of minutes, and then found our way out of the studio and through the labyrinth and stood on the landing of ‘the foyer’. I’d met some really nice people during the show, and we stood about and chatted for a bit. A BBC-type finally came to us and asked, "Are you audience members? ["Yes."] Well, are you staying? Are you leaving?" God bless English cheekiness. With that, we headed out the heavily guarded gates and made our way to the N207, to Marble Arch, and from there home to Oxford (during the journey to which I wrote this account), and to this computer to type it all out.
I doubt pretty seriously that any audience recordings were made of the non-broadcast sets, as we were all put through metal detectors and our bags x-rayed as though we were about to launch in a jet across the ocean. Apparently, though, at least the second set will be broadcast on Radio 1, so keep ears (and high-quality recording devices to make me mp3s with hehe) at the ready.
General highlights of the evening:
--The fact that there * was * an evening.
--The dead-center-stage, 9-feet-away, unobstructed view of everyone and everything on the stage, combined with the deft work of the crew to produce a great looking and sounding performance.
--The wonderful reception lyttleton et al received by the ‘rock’ audience.
--"Cinnamon Girl," "Lucky," "Paranoid Android," "Exit Music," "Dollars + Cents," "Everything in its Right Place (!!)," "Morning Bell," "Talk-show Host," "How to Disappear," "Street Spirit," "No Alarms," "Life in a Glass House". Best single song, "Everything in its Right Place".
--The bands total exuberance, their intensity (and its consistency, on and off television alike,) and their obvious revitalization.
Having been to this performance will make it even more difficult to enjoy huge ‘rock concert’ atmospheres with their contingent distance, detachment, impersonality, and clueless moshers and crowdsurfers who couldn’t give a fuck about the music ("what music?"). Obviously, though, after seven years of intense personal enjoyment of this bands’ varied and consistently engaging music-making, it was absolutely wonderful to finally have that brilliance and love matched live, in person, off record.