Radiohead Do No Wrong in Illinois

The Brits bring masterful, light-show-aided performance to Rosemont Theatre

Radiohead, Radio head, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway and Ed O'Brien, Creep, Grammy, Rollingstone, archive, magazine
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Radiohead attend the New York premier of 'Kundun' on December 11th, 1997.
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Radiohead
Rosemont Theatre
Rosemont, Illinois
April 10th, 1998

Thom Yorke, a choirboyish bundle of charisma in baggy trousers, is still apologizing for something his band did five years ago. In a ninety-minute set, Radiohead avoided playing "Creep," the song from their 1993 debut, Pablo Honey, that broke the band in the U.S. but also caused some to write them off as grunge wanna-be's. "We didn't know what we were doing. . . . It's called learning," Yorke said by way of introducing another Pablo tune, the jingle-jangling "Lurgee."

But apologies were hardly necessary on a night when, as far as the crowd was concerned, Radiohead could do no wrong. Indeed, it was difficult to find fault with a set split just about evenly between OK Computer and its 1995 predecessor, The Bends. Unlike previous, relatively stripped-down stateside tours, this show featured the band's spectacular, Wembley-worthy light show, visions of "Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii" erupting during the assaultive "Climbing Up the Walls."

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Jonny Greenwood tinkered in the shadows with foot pedals, keyboards, mallets, guitars and knobs, apparently intent on creating a new sound for each verse, while drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood adroitly navigated the twisting arrangements of the four-part "Paranoid Android." The band's secret weapon was guitarist Ed O'Brien, whose harmony vocals deepened the sense of anxiety and yearning in Yorke's lyrics.

Radiohead kept extracting moments of knee-buckling beauty from pummeling violence. With eyes shut and head wobbling as though enduring an unforgiving roller-coaster ride, Yorke sang his melancholic arias while the music washed over him. "Pull me out of the air crash/Pull me out of the lake," he pleaded on "Lucky," and hundreds of arms shot upward from the audience, as though ready to plunge after him.

This story is from the May 28th, 1998 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 787: May 28, 1998