If Radiohead were a book, they’d undoubtedly be a literary novel; something lauded by both critics and independent booksellers and, perhaps most importantly, cherished by the type of folks who aren’t afraid of spending time alone, undoubtedly reading literary novels. While there’s (still) something to be said about those who (still) write literary fiction, not to mention folks who (still) find solace in open books, the twain don’t make for a great night out at the arena. Which is to say that Radiohead’s Miami showing would’ve made for great headphone, but it sure didn’t make for great spectacle.
Last night’s American Airlines Arena appearance was one of the most highly-anticipated events on an ever-crowded concert calendar — and rightly so too. Radiohead have long been sticking to their proverbial guns and making the kinda music that makes the distinguished minions go mad. They are sharp. They are true. And they are wowful. They’ve also showed that the world can be won on one’s own terms, provided of course one’s willing, if necessary, to go it alone.
Of course, it’s been a very long time since Radiohead had to go it alone, or deal with the kind of rigors faced by arch independents. Nevertheless, they remain the epitome of non-compromisers, and their fans treat (and worship) them accordingly. Problem is, said legions seem to spend so much time congratulating themselves on their impeccable taste, they forget what it was that gave everything flavor in the first place.
At the Triple A, in the first of a US tour that will take Radiohead to scores of arenas pretty much just like the one where the Heat hold court, thousands upon thousands of like-minded souls stood patting themselves on their proverbial backs. Radiohead, in turn, sang them new-fangled lullabies. Oh, there were a few bright, shining moments (notably the pairings of both “Lotus Flower” with “There There” and “Airbag” with “Body Snatchers”), and, with few exceptions (i.e. a loop glitch in “Give Up the Ghost”), the band played on. But that’s just it: Radiohead played on instead of being on; they weren’t the inspired, soarful wonders we’ve come to know and dig. They were, in a term, ho-hum.
I know I’ll get a lotta flack for this, but I’d gone seeking transcendence. We wouldn’t accept anything less in my literary fiction, why should we accept less in our most literary of bands?