Radiohead at Madison Square Garden
I overheard a gem of an inquiry as I giddily sauntered out of the fourth of four sold-out Radiohead shows at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. "Remember how sad he always used to seem?” The subject of the eavesdrop in question? The band's frontman, the inimitable Thom Yorke, of course.
For anyone who had previously seen Radiohead live, they would—depending on their age—indeed remember the previously high levels of melancholy. In fact, in an interview with The Guardianback in 2013, the singer told the author, a little anxiously, he had been “trying on fun for size,” continuing, “I'm 44 now. And I did start thinking, if I can't enjoy this now, when am I going to start?"
Today, at 49, Yorke certainly seems to have figured out how to enjoy it. Throughout a Radiohead show here in 2018, he offers a jump, a dance, a quip, a smile. Lather, rinse, repeat. Throughout this run of shows, the songs—about 25 of them—were even punctuated joyously: by a giant, glimmering disco ball that would sprinkle some magic across MSG as the band bounced between several decades’ worth of music (“This was written in 1998. Me and Jonny were traveling through the desert somewhere—remember?” Yorke said of Kid A’s “Optimistic.”).
Saturday night, an alarming pause came after the band played The King Of Limbs opener “Bloom,” when they stopped to react to a cluster of cell phone flashlights on the GA floor signaling for security’s attention. Everything turned out fine—the person in need seemingly receiving the necessary help thanks to their fellow concertgoers—and the band launched into “Everything In Its Right Place,” amassing a collective sigh and putting an omnipresent pep in The Garden’s step. That track at that point in the set was certainly planned (see the science of a Radiohead setlist, courtesy of New York Magazine back in 2006); they played it every night last week, save for Tuesday’s kick-off. Still, it felt wonderfully suitable for the moment. We were going to make it.
And make it, we did. “We’d like to thank everybody who’s come this week to all the shows,” Yorkesaid during the final night’s encore—which culminated in a triumphant, cathartic “Karma Police” sing-along (as did Wednesday’s show; Tuesday and Friday both ended with “The Bends”). “A celebration of what has happened in all these crazy fucking years we’ve had together.” Quite the reason to enjoy it, I’d say.
Written and Photographed by Amanda Koellner