Radiohead Blast Back Into Action at U.S. Tour Kickoff

Band rips through a killer set of new tunes, reinvented classics and rarities at Miami opener

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs in Amsterdam.
Dimitri Hakke/Redferns via Getty Images
Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs in Amsterdam.
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Radiohead
American Airlines Arena
Miami, Florida
February 27th, 2012

Radiohead said hello in Miami – the opening show of their first U.S. tour in four years – with a perfect description of their new state of rhythmic and creative elation: "Bloom," from 2011's The King of Limbs. "Open your mouth wide," Thorn Yorke sang with languid pleasure across a compelling tumult of percussion and murky jangle. A few minutes later, he was a bundle of nervous anticipation, dancing in place as he waited for drummers Phil Selway and Clive Deamer to count off the surge and staccato-guitar jolt of "Morning Mr Magpie." Three songs into the gig, the famously tour-phobic singer was clearly having a grand time.

This show was the culmination of a yearlong reinvention from the hermetic electronica of King of Limbs to the muscular reconception of that record road-tested last fall at New York's Roseland Ballroom with Deamer, who has played with Portishead. He is now integrated into a deeper portion of Radiohead's catalog, and the effect in Miami was renewing. The robotic suspense of 2000's Kid A now has legs. "There There," from 2003's Hail to the Thief, was all momentum, with wall-to-wall drumming that included guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien on their own kits.

The set list drew heavily from The King of Limbs and 2007's In Rainbows. Radiohead also debuted two new songs. "Identikit" featured Yorke and O'Brien singing different spectral melodies over a hip-hop groove and Colin Greenwood's iron-straight bass pulse. "Cut a Hole" was a slow miniature with curt, clanging guitar. There was excavation, too: the OK Computer-era B-side "Meeting in the Aisle." Expect more of the fresh and the rare this year. Backstage before a final rehearsal, Yorke revealed that Radiohead have worked up more than 75 songs for this tour, including additional new songs and deep-track B sides.

Radiohead have returned to arenas with a spectacle worthy of the space, including an ingenious moving-image wall of 14,400 recycled plastic water bottles outfitted with LEDs. Yorke sent the crowd home with a singalong of "Karma Police," grinning as he walked off the stage. They are one of the best and most reluctant touring bands of the modern-rock era. But everything in Radiohead's drive, shine and delight tonight said they were glad to be back.

This story is from the March 29th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.


From The Archives Issue 1153: March 29, 2012