Radiohead live review: an exploration of their musical universe

The band’s show blends universal themes with dreamlike qualities

Artist: Radiohead

Venue: 3Arena

Date Reviewed: June 20th, 2017

3Arena, Dublin

After a joyous support performance from Shye Ben Tzur, with the Rajasthan Express and Jonny Greenwood (who produced their record Junun), we are plunged into darkness, and what resembles an all-seeing eye becomes visible on the stage.

The singular, poignant piano from Daydreaming takes shape, with Thom Yorke singing about dreamers and damage. On the lyric “happy to serve”, he gestures to the crowd, an act he returns to constantly, in what becomes much more than a performance of Radiohead’s music.

Ful Stop drives on, its relentless guitars harnessing a physical response that find its ultimate antecedent in the magnificent National Anthem: it distills Radiohead’s worldview, with those guitars and Yorke’s evocative voice, all intelligence and deep emotion.

After each song, we are brought back to a lighting state that suggests the vastness of the universe, a small mirrorball that radiates almost-stars around the room, reminding us of our frailty and connectedness, something they have always done so well.

What makes tonight particularly potent is how the band present brilliant musicianship, sophisticated ideas, and devastating emotional states, in such a transformative way.

Radiohead bring that special kind of light that dusk throws. It’s there in the sloping synths of All I Need, and Yorke’s yearning that he is “all the days that you choose to ignore”; it’s in Let Down, with its rich percussive qualities, which enlivens the gorgeous Idioteque, and The Gloaming, which brings the audience to a rave.

There is such a physical quality to Yorke’s performance, as if he is testifying, willing the crowd to give in to feeling, laughing at the impromptu singalongs.

The show ends with two encores. The poignancy of No Surprises with its wobbly xylophone is met with the devastating I Promise, which was written around the time of OK Computer, but never released.

Paranoid Android is immersive, and Present Tense is emotive, a subtle explosion, with its choral element preparing the crowd for the warmth of Everything in its Right Place, which wraps tightly around, only releasing its grip for the complementary Lotus Flower and its polyrhythms, all handclaps and shapeshifting percussion. Fake Plastic Trees is heightened, with Yorke singing about what makes us all so weary, yet providing comfort.

How to Disappear Completely brings everything to a close, with the lyric “I float down the Liffey” getting a raucous cheer that morphs into a kind of collective sigh.

Yorke has previously said that when playing here years ago, he was going through a period of intense anxiety, and had a dream that he was “flying around Dublin”, and that the whole song is his experience of “really floating”, with the dream providing a better reality than the panic attack of his waking life. This concert is that dream.