Radiohead navigate through their own history at Glastonbury 2017

June 24, 2017

You can’t accuse Radiohead of being sentimental. Twenty years since they crowned their ascendency to the top table of British rock with OK Computer and the famously muddy maiden headline performance at Glastonbury, and with a reissue of that seminal record released the same day as they return to that scene, rumours had been doing the rounds that they might even play the album in full. They didn’t. But they did play more from it than they ordinarily would.


Starting with the stately cyclical melody of ‘Daydreaming’, they usher a feverish crowd into a muted opening. From this typical display of wilful restraint, ‘Lucky’ is dragged kicking and screaming from the annals of their past. The band then proceed to zig and zag between their two distinct identities: classicist rockers and skittish, progressive, beat-orientated soundscape merchants. The Oxford quintet are bathed in dark light for the majority of what is a rather lengthy 135-minute set. Predictably, they have drawn a swollen crowd: plump in number; eager in anticipation. The electronic piano of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ gets the masses physically moving, but it is the solemn paeans such as ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ and ‘Street Spirit’ they nourish the soul.


Yorke, never the most familiar with crowd interaction and repartee, is his usual self save for a few remarks aimed towards Theresa May and other mumble jumble that is expressed with an affected accent. Maybe he’s trying it out. Who knows? Anyway, when he takes the spotlight for the spectral beauty of ‘Nude’, his voice stands up to scrutiny. His pipes remain in fine fettle. Meanwhile, Johnny Greenwood remains the musical polymath. He’s a magnetic presence with his trademark long fringe hanging low and a stooped gait weaving and bopping over a variety of instruments. The band, as a unit, exhibit a cohesive functionality and showcase a stunning breadth. They are rarely a congruent viewing experience these days, and are prone to frustrating their audiences, but their amenability is something to behold.


There is a clear acceleration as the set progresses of intentional crowd pleasing on their part They nudge towards their conclusion with ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, ‘No Surprises’, ‘Creep’ and ‘Karma Police’. With a lot of expectation hanging over their appearance this weekend, they pretty much nailed it. It wasn’t necessarily a re-enactment of their legendary 1997 slot, just as it wasn’t when they last headlined here in 2003, but it did more than enough to remind any naysayers as to the worthiness of their preeminent standing.


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