Sunday, April 18, 2010

Atoms For Peace Reflection

I need to preface this piece by stating, that I should never attempt to craft a critical piece about Radiohead. In my mind, this group of Oxonian musicians is an infallible musical force, and I can think of no other group, which has had such a profound impact on my life. So in reference to my deep-rooted bias, I shall solely reflect on the performance, rather than attempt at articulating any critical conclusions.

When I learned that Atoms For Peace (The Radiohead Side Project) was playing at the Fox Theater on April 15th 2010, my weekend sleep pattern was forever ruined. The following Sunday, I found myself setting my alarm, making copious amounts of hot chocolate, and plopping myself in front of the computer to refresh ticket master every couple of minutes, just in the name of seeing one of my heroes. Atoms For Peace is a temporary group formed by Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke, in order to play his solo album, 2006’s The Eraser. The group is composed of Thom Yorke, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the famous producer Nigel Godrich, Mauro Refosco from Forro In The Dark, and Joey Waronker who has drummed for Beck, R.E.M, and The Smashing Pumpkins. The group emerged on stage after electronic DJ Flying Lotus opened the show. Then for the next hour and a half the group played the entirety of Yorke’s solo album, whose lyrics focus on issues of nuclear power and global climate change. During the set, the albums themes seemed to create a lingering sense dread around the venue. The heavy percussion, buzzy synths, and wiry guitars, effortlessly personified many fears ingrained into the zeitgeist of the modern era. Yet, despite this puncturing sadness, I couldn’t help feeling that I was experiencing a true piece of art. Yes, it was entertaining, but more importantly it made me think, it made me feel. After the group finished playing The Eraser, they left the stage, only for Yorke to reemerge alone, and play some Radiohead songs acoustically. I have often described Radiohead’s music with the following phrase “It grabs your soul, and doesn’t let go.” Nothing illustrated this more, than when Yorke played an acoustic rendition of “Airbag”; the opening track on the bands 1997 magnum opus, Ok Computer. During the piece, my stomach twisted, head throbbed, and tears began to fill my eyes. Yorke had my soul, and I cherished every minute of it. After a few more Radiohead pieces and some oddly beautiful new material, Yorke left the stage, the lights illuminated the packed theater, and generic house music began to play over the stereo system. Yet, despite the show obviously being over, the audience did not budge. Everyone just stood up and passionately applauded, truly showcasing the emotional investment every attendant had experienced during the last two hours. Then suddenly the entire band emerged back on stage, playing Joy Divisions 1980 hit “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This impromptu second encore alone might have been the biggest revelation of the evening. It revealed that a band, which has clearly suffered, is ready to have fun.

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