Show Review: Atoms For Peace (Thom Yorke) at the Fox Oakland, 4/14/10

by Raffi Youssoufian on April 15, 2010

Energetic Atoms

I think we’ve reached the point where if Thom Yorke’s name was attached to a juggling festival, the show would be sold out in three seconds flat.  Nobody in music today holds the same trust in the eyes, ears, and hearts of fans more than he does.  All Radiohead fans seem to blindly follow, and with good reason, whether it’s his own project, or if he’s simply recommending some new music.  As one of those followers, although I do like to think I have my eyes open (I haven’t purchased every piece of music he’s recommended, or own every b-side put out!), I was there at the beautiful Fox Theater with everyone else ready to lose ourselves in the live version of the mostly electronic The Eraser.

The opener, Flying Lotus, did a decent job of warming up the crowd, live mixing on his laptop.  It was right in line with the show, some hard edged beats mixed in with some hip hop tracks, a Portishead song, and two Radiohead tracks, including a not so interesting mix of “Idioteque.”  But it didn’t matter.

Coming out to a huge cheer from a hungry crowd who last saw Radiohead in the Bay Area at the Outside Lands Festival in 2008, Thom darted for the piano without saying a word, jumping right into “The Eraser,” which sounded remarkably close to the actual record.  A lot of the songs really did sound pretty close to the album, but I guess you couldn’t expect much less from this awesome group of musicians.  Atoms for Peace is the venerable all-star crew Thom recruited, consisting of Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on bass, Joey Waronker, who’s played drums for R.E.M. and Beck, Mauro Refosco from Forro in the Dark on percussion, and Radiohead’s own producer  and uncle Nigel Godrich on synths, noises, and guitar.

The show was divided into three parts.  The first was composed of the entire The Eraser album.  The second was a solo Thom three song set.  And the third was combo of old and new material.  The entire set was just about everything I could have expected.  But for some reason the first left me hanging.  The band was perfect.  Flea did his thing, bobbing about the stage, playing a phenomenal bass.  Thom, by the sixth song, took the mic off the stand and started dancing as Thom does, fully engrossing himself into the music.  The electronic drum tracks were perfectly delivered with real drums in real time.   They did everything they were supposed to do, but something was lacking.  I think it had to do more with my own expectations about the show (I couldn’t help but be disappointed).  But then again I think I realized that, aside from four or five songs, I really don’t like the songs as much as I like any track on any Radiohead album.  So, why would I like a live replication more?

More than anything, seeing these songs performed live, I could almost hear what was missing:  the other Radiohead members’ input into the music.  They are all very talented in their own right and really complement each other without the agitation of ego, more than any band I can think of.  Aside from the piano and drum tracks, sometimes it felt a smidge empty.  Sure it was good, and sure it’s better than eighty percent of the crap out there, but when you set a standard that high, sometimes it’s hard to live up to it.  Then again, almost everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves pretty well.

The solo set opened with a new soon-to-be Radiohead track, called “Lotus Flower.” Its a bit bluesy, with a pretty high vocal melody, but in reality it’s just another good song written by these guys.  Sometimes you just have to stop and think how hard it is to write a good song, and then about the amount of quality tracks they’ve created.  It really is astounding.  He followed that with two great acoustic versions of “Like Spinning Plates,” (possibly a nod to Spinning Platters here in the Bay Area?) and “Everything In It’s Right Place.”

The third section opened with “Paperbag Writer,” a b-side from Hail To The Thief, with very stark strings as most of the melody and a lot of beats, some almost reminiscent of an old Beastie Boys drum track.  It was during this part I felt he was the most enigmatic and fully into the music.  Of course I could have been a bit loopy from standing for so long, but this is when I danced the most.  Followed by “Judge, Jury, Executioner” which seems to be a new song, with the coincidental parenthetical namesake of  “Myxomatosis” on HTTF, it had a great melodic riff countering the bouncing bass.  The last two songs were both off a limited 12-inch sold under Thom’s name, “The Hollow Earth” a fast paced flicker drum Thom and Johnny Greenwood track, and a very echo-y “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses,” that came out of The Eraser sessions.

After this was a huge ovation, a lot of love, and a thank you, proceeded by the lights up and house music on.  But that didn’t stop the crowd from continuing to cheer.  After about five minutes, I left, thinking it was over.  But in the morning I checked a trusty old Radiohead site and the set list was posted: with an encore!!!!  How mad was I!!! I guess I can’t complain, it might not have been the best thing I’ve seen, and can’t come close to all of the times I’ve seen Radiohead, but it was a good show. I’m still glad I went.

Set list:

1. Album

The Eraser
Analyse
The Clock
Black Swan
Skip Divided
Atoms For Peace
And It Rained All Night
Harrowdown Hill
Cymbal Rush

2. Solo Set

Lotus Flower
Like Spinning Plates
Everything In It’s Right Place

3. New and Old

Paperbag Writer
Judge, Jury, Executioner
The Hollow Earth
Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses

Encore

Daily Mail
an unlabeled jam session song
Follow Me Around

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vi April 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm

That’s too bad about the encore! It just shows the loyalty of Radiohead fans.

Now I just need to know, how in god’s name did Flea end up in a band with Thom Yorke?

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Willie dixon April 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Don’t how you could have left early, man. It was way before 11 pm and Flea noodled with the bass back stage and it went over the PA. Every one was still there except for you 🙂

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