Radiohead Wow Madison Square Garden with Amped-Up Angst

Space rockers, 'Kid A' jams and new tunes in New York

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
July 13, 2006

Theater at Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
June 14, 2006

During Radiohead's two-hour show, Thom Yorke played guitar, organ and drums; showed off some near-virtuosic tambourine playing; gave Michael Stipe a shout-out; and performed a sly hip-shake dance. Though Yorke usually puts on a fervent, nuanced show, tonight he seemed unusually engaged: He amped up his angsty moments, focused his malleable voice with particle-ray command and embarked on sprawling flights of fancy.

Playing a 5,000-seat venue they could have sold out nine times over, Radiohead opened with "The Gloaming," a hypnotic slow-burner, before trotting out two new songs slated for their next album (due next year): The so-so "Arpeggi" mashed up churning guitar and Yorke's ghostly moans, and the subtly catchy "15 Step" set Yorke's agitated, punch-and-jab melody over an almost-dancehall beat.

The eight new songs they introduced in the course of the night mostly played like toughened-up versions of the material on 2003's Hail to the Thief: Heavy on propulsive grooves and meaty guitars, the songs favored dark sprawl over proper song form but were still plenty engaging. The standout, "Bangers 'n' Mash," was a serrated, punk-schooled barnburner, with Yorke snarling like a speed-addled Johnny Rotten.

Collage-y, keyboard-driven songs like "Dollars and Cents" featured tweaked arrangements and carefully tended-to details, with guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien massaging synths and kneeling before analog consoles. An extended "Kid A" was stellar: While the band added an insistent trance-pulse to the album version's disjointed music-box patter, Yorke tossed in mantralike ad-libs amid the song's warm, meandering melody. But the show was equally strong as a guitarfest. Big, space-rocking oldies – including "Paranoid Android" and "Just" – sounded especially adrenalized, exploding with chunky riffs, noisy skronk and Greenwood's wailing solos.

Following some tuneful fan faves – including "No Surprises," which Yorke dedicated to "Monsignor Stipe" – Radiohead launched into a sprawling version of "Everything in Its Right Place," setting pillowy electric piano and a light techno groove against Yorke's shape-shifting croon, then leaving the stage one by one as Greenwood mixed what they'd just played into a sea of echoing loops and keyboard spatter The seven-song encore featuringa great "Idioteque" – was icing on the multilayered cake.

"Thank you very much," Yorke said at the end. "It's amazing that anybody still gives a shit." What a kidder.

This story is from the June 13th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. 

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