I did. I saw them live, and it was, not to put too fine a point on it, like, the best thing ever.
I didn’t get into Radiohead until I was nearly 22. I’d heard of the band before that, of course, I mean, it’s not like I lived under a rock, and had seen them perform “Karma Police” on Letterman and though I liked the song, that was kind of it. Years later, I graduated from college. I was unemployed (one of my life’s main themes, as it seems to happen). I was looking for work but not finding anything, and I had to entertain myself somehow, so I wound up hanging out in a music chatroom. Do people hang out in chatrooms anymore? I don’t know. There was a core group of people who hung out there, and eventually, by virtue of the fact that I didn’t have anything else to do and was therefore hanging out there all the time, I became part of that group. We talked about music a lot, yes, but also about every other issue on the planet, all with nearly lethal doses of snark. It was, for the most part, a group of quick, clever people, and I liked them a lot. One of the people who hung out there while working a tech support job for an ISP (which he made sound like hell) was a guy named Wes. Wes and I hit it off, and because we were hanging out in a music chatroom and Radiohead was his favorite band, he got me to give them a more serious listen, starting with the song “Let Down” which is still one of my all-time favorites. Amnesiac came out that year, and he sent me a copy of it for my birthday. It arrived in the mail the day before I turned 22, and on my 22nd birthday, the day the Twin Towers fell, it was in my CD player. I listened to “Pyramid Song” on repeat and wept at the line “there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.”
Wes and I eventually lost touch. He was in a band that I liked (I had a couple of mp3s of their demos floating around on one of my old computers) but at some point they broke up. I got a job, he changed jobs, nobody hung out in the music room anymore and that’s how internet friendships come and go. But I still have that copy of Amnesiac, and sometimes I’ll hear a song from it and wonder what the hell Wes is up to these days.
Anyway, last night Radiohead played Detroit, which is the first time they’ve played in Michigan since 1997. Dude. I had floor seats. And I had a really good spot, because even though I wasn’t right up front, I was able to see everything, which is something of a miracle in a standing area, because it’s not like I’m tall. I kept thinking that if I had my actual camera with me I could’ve even caught facial expressions, but still, I figured, if I was going to be armed with nothing but a phone, at least it was an iPhone. The crowd was different from crowds at other shows I’ve been to, in that there wasn’t much jostling or pushing anybody out of the way to get a better spot. A polite crowd. Huh.
And boy, do those guys put on a hell of a show. The lights and monitors were incredible and also, yes, I was in the same room with Thom Yorke and I got to see him do his crazy Thom Yorke dancing in person. Rad. If you’re interested, here’s the setlist from the show:
Morning Mr. Magpie
I Might Be Wrong
Climbing Up the Walls
Little By Little
Exit Music (For a Film)
Give Up the Ghost
Everything In Its Right Place
Radiohead songs are tied to so many memories of mine anymore, that standing there listening to them was like one trip down memory lane after another. “Pyramid Song” of course always takes me back to my 22nd birthday, though I can listen now and remember and not cry, even if it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. “Exit Music (For A Film)” reminds me of being a 23-year-old walking to work listening to OK Computer on my enormous Sony Discman (remember those?) and timing my walk so that I would turn the corner and take the final stretch down a massive hill toward City Hall when the big swell at the end of the song kicks in and reach the back of the building at the last “we hope that you choke.” (I hated that job.) “Separator,” the final track on The King of Limbs, takes me back to winter/early spring 2011, which was a horrible time for so many reasons, but fuck I love that song. (Here’s a video of it from last night — pretty steady and good sound (for a video recorded on a phone) — recorded by someone who was right up front, and yes, there’s some crazy Thom Yorke dancing!) And and and and and.
My favorite bit from the show was when Thom said they hadn’t played Michigan in 15 years and then they went straight into “Karma Police” and everyone sang along. It was one of those brilliant, heart-grows-three-sizes-I-love-the-universe moments.
Great night. And I was there!