Radiohead Uplift Rapturous Crowd at the Tweeter Center

Thom Yorke and Co. deliver all the paranoia their fans could hope for, and much more

September 18, 2003
Radiohead, Radio head, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway, Ed O'Brien, Creep, Grammy, Rollingstone, archive, magazine
Radiohead's Thom Yorke performs supporting "Hail to the Thief" at the Alpine Valley Amphitheater August 23rd, 2003 in East Troy, Wisconsin.
Matt Carmichael/Getty

Tweeter Center
Mansfield, Massachusetts
August 13th, 2003

Opening act Stephen Malkmus may have called them "a solid B-plus audience," but the sellout crowd scored 100 on the rapture test after Radiohead took the stage – they screamed all the way through the first number, and nobody sat down for the two-hour show. And why not? Radiohead have taken generations of prog rock, grunge, electronica and tortured torch songs and seared away the fat, leaving no flabby histrionics or tubby instrumental solos.

Snuggled in dry-ice clouds before a backdrop that suggested a combination of The Matrix and a mixing board, Radiohead comfortably built thick layers of tension that snapped apart with a snare-drum crack or a cybernetic squawk. Frontman Thom Yorke, whether acting as a writhing waif ("Sit Down. Stand Up") or a ranting runt (the rarely performed "Creep"), always tempered his paranoia with soothing melody. Jonny Greenwood broke up Yorke's pristine, high-tenor angst with distorted guitars and electronic jeers. The lack of funk or rhythmic pulse in Phil Selway's mighty drum thump was meant to drive away the tear-spotted world, not to dance away specific, concrete troubles.

But there are limits to even Radiohead's detachment from the world. When Yorke changed a lyric in "Creep" from craving a pure soul to wanting to look good next to the object of his desire, he hinted that maybe a top-draw rock star didn't worry about deep connections anymore. And there comes a time to get down to old-fashioned pop pleasures, which Radiohead delivered with "There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)." The track was given a percussion push, thanks to Jonny and Colin Greenwood's additional snare-drum work. For a band that thrives on disquiet and misery, it was a much-needed uplift.

This story is from the September 18th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone. 

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »