ACL Live Shot: Atoms for Peace

Thom Yorke and Flea put on a spirit possession

Splitting the atom: Yorke (left) and Flea, 10.6.13
Splitting the atom: Yorke (left) and Flea, 10.6.13
photo by Shelley Hiam

Atoms for Peace generates 21st century trance music for the Kid A generation, a soundtrack to a life coded in zeroes and ones.

The band – Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker, Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, and producer Nigel Godrich – doesn’t write songs. They create mazes, sinewy tracks with no clear ending or beginning, the kind that mess with your depth perception, especially in a live setting.

Those hoping to hear Radiohead covers had to settle for “Paperbag Writer,” a Hail to the Thief B-side with cold, exhaling synths. The rest of the 100-minute set with two encores pulled evenly from Yorke’s 2006 stunner The Eraser and the group’s proper debut, this year’s Amok. Even when Yorke started alone at piano, as in his revision of 1998 Unkle collaboration “Rabbit in Your Headlights” or “Ingenue,” there were no ballads, just scribbled sentiments and inhabitable worlds of disembodied melody and echo.

For his part, Flea prowled the stage as if performing a spirit-possession ceremony on himself – hunched, head-banging, stepping over imaginary trip wires, arms at times outstretched – with a primal urgency more theatrical than Broadway’s Fela! In “Skip Divided,” his melodica served as a literal snake charmer to Yorke, awakening something inside him, while their wicked three-part interplay with Godrich on standout “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses” locked in tighter than Tor encryption.

Initial closer “Cymbal Rush” captured Atoms for Peace’s process in real-time: It started with hyper-kinetic rhythms thickened by Flea’s pulsing bass, to which Yorke added stabs of piano to match Godrich’s post-rock guitar, all leading to a dance break that found Yorke raving like a wind-up doll cranked too far.

Set list

“Before Your Very Eyes...”

“Default”

“The Clock”

“Ingenue”

“Stuck Together Pieces”

“Unless”

“And It Rained All Night”

“Harrowdown Hill”

“Dropped”

Encore 1

“Skip Divided”

“Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses”


“Rabbit in Your Headlights”

"Paperbag Writer”

“Amok”

Encore 2

“Atoms for Peace”

“Black Swan”


For more ACL Fest coverage, see austinchronicle.com/acl. For photo galleries from the fest, see austinchronicle.com/photos.
READ MORE
More ACL Fest 2013
The Rain Can't Stop the Music
The Rain Can't Stop the Music
UPDATE: ACL acts including Mowglis make alternate plans

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 13, 2013

ACL Live Shot (Second Weekend): The Cure
ACL Live Shot (Second Weekend): The Cure
Robert Smith summons the rain

Doug Freeman, Oct. 13, 2013

More Atoms for Peace
ACL Music Fest 2013 Sunday Reviews
Atoms for Peace

Austin Powell, Oct. 4, 2013

More by Austin Powell
Record Review: The Young
Record Review: The Young

Aug. 22, 2014

Pickathon Polishes Off No. 16
Pickathon Polishes Off No. 16
Oregon fest boasts IPAs, ATXs, camping, and sustainability

Aug. 4, 2014

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Atoms for Peace, ACL Fest 2013, Thom Yorke, Radiohead, Flea, Beatles, Unkle, Fela Kuti, Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco, Nigel Godrich

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)