Radiohead Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, Texas, June 18

Live Shots

Radiohead

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion,

The Woodlands, Texas, June 18

This had to be the most anticipated show in recent memory. Sure enough, the ticket said Radiohead, but which Radiohead would it be? The forlorn melodicists who produced two of the Nineties' most indelible albums in The Bends and OK Computer, or the anti-pop terrorists responsible for 2000/1's Kid A and Amnesiac? The answer came straightaway in the fuzz-clouded, stentorian bassline of opener "National Anthem." Tonight, we would be seeing Radiohead the rock band. Not only did the Oxford-based fivepiece invest catalog cuts like "My Iron Lung" and "Exit Music (for a Film)" with arena-ready care and craftsmanship, but newer offerings like Amnesiac's "I Might Be Wrong" and "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" packed twice the minor-key kick they do on tape. OK Computer's "Lucky" was drawn-out, symphonic, and savory, sweeping over the masses like a half-remembered dream, while the tender "No Surprises" worked its way under the crowd's skin on Jonny Greenwood's twinkling music-box bells. Singer Thom Yorke, far from showing the sullen, crypto-rock star face he usually presents to the media, greeted the audience with a hearty "Well, hello there," and nearly got so carried away during the grandly cacophonous breakbeats of "Idiotheque," it looked like he was going to stage-dive. I swear. He even made a joke, asking the crowd before "Sardines" if there were any traffic problems in Texas. ("But there's all this space -- can't you just go off-road?") "Bones" was all rumbling rhythms and sugar-coated chorus -- no "Prozac Painkillers" necessary -- and the lush piano tones of swaying sing-along "Karma Police" pushed the night even further into lighter-land. Then Yorke sealed the deal by sending the schizophonic "Paranoid Android" -- half acoustic reverie, half electric slam -- out to "all the people in the back smoking the weed." For a band that so often seems to want nothing more than simply to be left alone, Radiohead sure went out of their way to send everyone home happy. Call it a kind of karmic payback for the floods that very nearly swept the entire Houston area into the Gulf of Mexico the week before, but whatever the ultimate reason for this band's sudden interest in being rock stars again, I certainly wouldn't want to pay their fog-machine bill.

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