As the first-Friday sun peaked below the treetops of Zilker’s western edge, Thom Yorke’s signature top knot bobbed onstage. Hands in pockets, his body followed – at least 60 seconds early for the 7pm call time. The steadfast professional arrived for work.
For the next 75 minutes, the Radiohead frontman presided over his solo work as vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and DJ. And as the lead singer performed total tone control, his ever long collaborator Nigel Godrich orchestrated, holding down the fort just as producers are wont to do. Tarrik Barri’s art adorned the triptych of video screens towering above the three.
Th expansive audio-visual aspects of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes hemmed together in delicate interplay between the organic and synthetic. Analog, four-string bass played atop frenetic programmed beats, with the stage’s light show running complementary to the darkening night sky above. Even the Brit’s moaning falsetto, looped and delayed, became another instrument entrenched in the layered trance of sound.
While the set-list jaunted through his solo discography, Yorke danced on with a joyous confidence, skipping, jumping, gyrating between the control panel to the peak of the stage again and again. No in-between banter emerged, bar one non-sequitur squealing in delight over our president’s impeachment woes. Instead, he commanded the bleed of one track into the next.
Anima’s staccato “Twist” sauntered into the buzzing trance of “Traffic,” measuring the apex of volume and visuals for the evening. For those 10-odd minutes, the bellcurve of fans along the barricade got their bass fix, apparently all they came for. Apropos of otherwise middling applause, Yorke spent many a moment between songs arms outstretched and basking chin up in the lackluster response.
If total entertainment from a living great doesn’t satiate fest-goers, then a word for the wise on weekend two: try better.
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