Radiohead – 10 Days 5 Shows, 4 Hrs Sleep

by Jonathan on September 8, 2009

Radiohead in Prague 8-24-09

Thom in Prague. View more photos below.

The following is a review of the recent European tour by Vincent Cornelli, a photographer in New York City, who attended every one of the shows. He graciously offered to write up a review of the whole tour, as well as take photos for us. Make sure to see all the photos after the jump.

In my opinion, there’s no better way to see the world than to hit up destination festivals and tours. It fosters the best of encounters, friendships, and ultimately, sonic experiences…especially when it comes to a band like Radiohead. I recently returned from a trip to Europe following Radiohead’s five show mini-tour.

On August 19th, I set out on my mission. First stop, Austria’s Frequency Festival.

For many of us, Radiohead is a band that continues to remain relevant in our lives. For me, it started when The Bends surfaced. Upon it’s release, I was not the biggest fan of Pablo Honey…not to fault the album, but at that point in my life I was counter to anything mainstream. So, from the days of The Bends to present, Radiohead continues to create amazing music by pulling from older influences of styles, percussions, etc, and fusing it with their iconic sound and direction. Their lyrics, ideologies, and actions tend to strike a chord that allows us to look past the current pretenses we’re spoon fed, and they continue to suggest that we look forward.

But, the greatest part of it all is that I am not alone here.

Radiohead’s live experience means something. One thing in common at all of the Radiohead shows I’ve attended is that incredible people permeate, and share this same view. In the nine countries I’ve ever traveled to see this band, I am always surprised to come back to the same conclusion – I am not alone. This tour has again proved exactly that – I have met individuals who traveled from six of our seven continents to bare witness to this five show stint. Call me a hippie, but this tour is proof positive that the dream is alive.

For many reasons, I would have to say that Poznan, Poland proved to be their best show of 2009.

First off, this was only the second time Radiohead had rolled through Poland – the first being during the Pablo Honey days, 15+ years ago. [Sidebar: I thought it quite poetic to close the evening with Creep].

Throughout the day at Cytadela City Park, I must have met 20+ locals…all energetic, with much to say about the band, politics, America, etc. As I spoke to them all, it became clear that they felt that the reason it took 15 years to return to Poland was mainly political. Right or wrong, I don’t claim to know…but that was their feeling. I will say this, of the shows outside of the U.K. during the tour, the five-some hit two countries they’ve never performed – Austria, and the Czech Republic.

At present however, Poznan is a city strongly focused on green energy and sustainable living…a priority that is certainly in line with the band’s mission. In late 2008, the United Nations held their global Climate Change Conference in the city of Poznan. A reason to hit Poznan? Sure. And as the self-proclaimed city motto goes, “Poznan for Earth.”

Irrespective of the basis for the band’s 15 year absence, the crowd was more than grateful for their return…the best crowd by far. Adding to the greatness of the crowd was that fact that Radiohead really clicked into a perfect cohesive sound during the third show of their tour. They were perfectly in sync…and they knew it. The energy was high, Thom was quite loquacious with the audience, and it was a perfect cyclical function of [dare I be redundant here] circular logic – the crowd feeding off the band, and visa-versa. It was an exceptional way to light up my 30th Radiohead show.

I must say, I was quite disappointed with the scene in Austria, a country new to the band’s touring history. Many people jetted that gear during the first and second encores. This was also quite obvious to a few other photographers and journalists I met that evening. While I don’t speak any of the many languages that are spoken in Austria (and there are more than a few), I found myself pointing people back toward the stage…saying, “Umm, the stage is thata way.” Granted it was a festival crowd, and there are other bands to see…but Grace Jones in comparison? Come on! Sure, there were some timing/logistical issues with the shuttles and trains back to Vienna. Personally, had it not been for an Austrian photographer friend who was kind enough to drive me back to Vienna (a gentlemen I met in the Radiohead photo pit), I was prepared to wait out the evening with all of my camera gear for an early AM train back to homebase.

One positive, amid an incredible setlist, was the premier of, These Are My Twisted Words. Thom kindly dedicated the song to ‘all the file-sharers out there.’ The song perplexes me some, however. Usually, when I don’t ‘get’ a produced Radiohead song at first blush, I always seem to eat my words after I experience it live. It all seems to work itself into place. It took me 4 tries <<fast forward to the Leeds Festival>> to finally get on board. Some are pontificating that this song as an indicator of a new direction musically. I’m not so sure I subscribe to this logic.

On another note – after the North American tour last summer, a few of us became a bit nervous of Thom Yorke’s voice. Granted, the band toured extensively all summer and the range of Thom’s vocals are an impossibility for most, but some still feared the worst. During the last tour, the typical crowd pleaser, Idioteque, rang differently with Ed supporting on vocals. While arguable, it didn’t necessarily work.

This go around? There was no sign of any weakness at all – only a stronger Radiohead…spot on. The entire band flexed their brilliance in exceptional spirits, and Thom’s voice was not only stunning, he sounded quite healthy. Idioteque, as it usually is, was fantastic. An equal crowd pleaser, Everything In It’s Right Place (and one note on the show in Prague), was beyond gorgeous when Thom leveraged the lyrics of True Love Waits [in it’s entirety] into the intro…truly haunting.

While Poznan brought the best of Radiohead, Leeds Festival proved to be the greatest of experiences. It is like no other festival I have seen (and I travel a fair amount for live tunes). I am 100% certain that next year, I will be hitting Leeds for the full five-day festival experience. The layout, the people, the energy and vibe were awe-inspiring. It’s nothing like what I’ve experienced. Needless to say, I got myself in some trouble…the good kind.

All in all, it was a fantastic journey. I feel fortunate to have been able to have been there, and to continue to ride the wave. Many thanks to Radiohead’s management, and Jonathan Percy, founder of www.greenplastic.com, for the opportunity to photograph both the Frequency Festival performance in St. Poelten, Austria, and a straight show Prague, CZ. Pictures are included below. I look forward to doing it again soon.

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