October 11th, 2000
'Radiohead request no moshing," read a sign on Roseland's door. The warning seemed unnecessary, since Radiohead's new album, Kid A, is so introverted and desolate. But there's a gap between recording-studio isolation and a packed ballroom, and at Roseland, Radiohead played as if they had burned the control room down.
Radiohead haven't abandoned pounding drums and searing, wailing guitars, even if they now use a computerized loop or two. The band took its exquisitely premeditated songs and let in traces of sweat and cacophony. Colin Greenwood's insistent, fuzzed-out bass riff for "The National Anthem" opened the set, with seven horn players growling and hooting alongside the band. And for nearly two hours, Thom Yorke sang as if the music was wringing him out, with knees pumping and head bobbing, his voice harried and plaintive but still reaching the high notes.
More than ever, Radiohead's songs on Kid A are about an estrangement so deep, it threatens identity itself: "This isn't happening, I'm not here," Yorke crooned. Scouring their catalog for similar sentiments, Radiohead found unreleased songs like "I Might Be Wrong," "Dollars and Cents," "You and Whose Army?" and the ballad "Pyramid Song," which Yorke dedicated to Napster users (search for "Egyptian Song"). Radiohead's newer songs, like "Morning Bell," are constructed to magnify tension. Ed O'Brien on guitar and Jonny Greenwood on guitar or keyboard create patterns of conflict – cross-timed strums and chops, cool keyboard lines, lacerating leads – that hurtle twice as fast as Yorke's despondent melodies. Onstage, the tunes sounded willing to tear themselves apart. While the inexorable buildup of songs like "Paranoid Android" had the majesty of Radiohead's studio work, the band never seemed aloof. Alienation gave Radiohead and their audience something to share; fans didn't mosh but swayed, united in disaffection.
This story is from the November 23rd, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.
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