The last time Radiohead performed in London they played two nights in the gigantic 20,000 capacity O2. Three nights in the Roundhouse is downplaying their evergreen appeal to say the very least. The Internet completely melted with disappointed fans when tickets flew out the door.
It will make sense if Radiohead announce larger shows to cater for this demand, but it makes equal sense that they’d want to play the Roundhouse. Built as a ’round house’ for storing train engines in 1846, the iconic venue is renowned for being a platform for progressive and experimental art. It is easily the best concert venue in London, and certainly one of the best in the world. Tempodrom in Berlin might just shade it for me.
When My Bloody Valentine ended their live hiatus to reunite in 2008, they chose the Roundhouse for their very first shows. Radiohead appear to be approaching things a bit differently in 2016. They’re doing festivals for the first time and years, and they’re warming up to the task with a series of much more intimate gigs.
I’d forgotten just how relatively tiny the Roundhouse actually is thanks to its roundness. It fits 3,000, but it feels like a capacity of just a few hundred and we manage to manoeuvre very close to the front. Even though I’ve seen Radiohead in an even smaller venue (the 1,600 capacity Olympia in Dublin) this felt much more intimate and inviting.
Radiohead emit a warm glow from the very second they launch into ‘Burn the Witch’ after a few moments limbering up. The venue explodes into happy bedlam at the chorus. It is spine-tingling to watch Jonny Greenwood play his guitar with a bow at such close quarters.
‘Daydreaming’ follows, and the various different elements of the song are beautifully displayed by close up footage of each the band’s five members playing their part. Predictably, the early part of the set is anchored around A Moon Shaped Pool, but here is plenty to delight Radiohead fans of all eras.
New song ‘Ful Stop’ (sic) has been doing the round for a while, and it sounds incredible here with Thom Yorke playing a portable keyboard. Among my many favourite moments from this divine and dreamlike gig was Yorke’s frenzied dancing during ‘Myxamatosis’ (very underrated song from an underrated album) and ‘Idiotheque’. Before ‘2 + 2 = 5’ completely kicks off, he beautifully milks the crowd’s excitement, and it’s well worth checking out this high quality clip.
As they started the first of two sets of encore, Thom Yorke said something that drove the Roundhouse wild.
Sadly, they don’t play everything, but they do pull eight encores out of the bag, concluding with ‘Paranoid Android’. At this stage, I’m completely drunk with happiness.
I’ve seen a lot of good shows, and a lot of great Radiohead shows, but this opening night in Camden was completely off the charts. Quite simply, this is as good as it gets…
Radiohead, Roundhouse set list
Thursday, May 26, 2016
1. Burn the Witch
3. Decks Dark
4. Desert Island Disk
5. Ful Stop
6. Lotus Flower
7. Talk Show Host
8. My Iron Lung
9. The Gloaming
10. Exit Music (for a Film)
13. The Numbers
17. Everything in Its Right Place
18. Morning Mr. Magpie
19. 2 + 2 = 5
21. Planet Telex
22. There There
23. Present Tense
24. You and Whose Army?
25. Paranoid Android