Saturday, March 10, 2012

Radiohead @ Moody Theater - Austin City Limits Taping, 3/6/12

Besides winning the actual lottery, the ACL Blog lottery for a pair of tickets to see the Radiohead taping that the program has been trying to book for years was the hottest gamble in town for Austinites last week. One of the most in-demand bands on the planet, but touring rarely, Radiohead has sold out huge arenas globally on their current tour, making this 2,700-capacity show a treat for all invited (the band's show at the Frank Erwin Center the next evening sold out in mere minutes). 19,000 people entered online for only 1,000 spots on the space-available taping guest list. Shockingly, not only was I one of the few lucky ones whom the gods decided to smile upon this fateful evening, but three of my closest friends also won pairs of seats to the taping.

Making sure to show up right on time to ensure our entrance to the Wednesday, March 6th taping, we hovered around the studio doors, and once open, briskly skirted over to secure a group of 5 seats together about 10 feet from stage right. We couldn't believe our good fortune in claiming these seats, as the floor became packed to capacity. Usually the balconies are closed off for ACL tapings and capacity is limited to 800, but the entire venue was opened up and filled for Radiohead. And the crowd was into it from start to finish, noticeably surprising even the well-loved band members.

The show was everything we expected, and more. Frontman Thom Yorke turned the ACL studio into his personal rhythm test garage, and he couldn't look more like a wise shaman than when rocking a pair of maracas with his hair pulled back into a tight ponytail and eyes closed as if connecting to some sort of existential rock universe that only he has access to. Some other reviewers have commented that the show was a bit disjointed and imperfect, but they were probably just too far away from the stage to be able to connect to the intricate work being done by the band, who may have appeared disengaged from a distance. I can assure these doubters that the band was incredibly connected for most of the evening, and our entire group was blown away by the musicianship and tightness of Radiohead's band members. The twin-bald-headed-white-man drum set-up was almost too funny, but there was no laughing at the talent on display and electricity between the pair.

For a band that constantly strives for perfection in only its own eyes, it was clear that they were using the taping format to their advantage, stopping and re-starting a song halfway through because Yorke was displeased with his guitar work. Nobody minded hearing it twice. While this crowd did not experience the beautiful stage design and constantly-moving screens built for the rest of Radiohead's arena tour, I doubt anyone cared about that either. The setlist focused on tracks from 'The King of Limbs' and 'In Rainbows', and the crowd did get a few old goodies, such as rarely played 'Orgy' and 'Myxomatosis', before the band finished up with 'Paranoid Android' during a singular encore. The theater screamed for a second encore (probably aware this is standard practice at Radiohead arena shows), but the band did not return as the studio lights came on and people began to file out. Most people could not conduct coherent conversations in the hours immediately following the show due to the level of musical nirvana reached.

The taping will air as part of the fall 2012 season of Austin City Limits on PBS.

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