Radiohead Tour Dates and Gigography

Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House - Brooklyn, NY USA
October 14, 2003 with Sigur Ros
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Show Notes
Benefit concert for Merce Cunningham dance troupe, w/ Sigur Ross. $55, $80 and $100 tickets
There are 5 reviews for this show.

Submitted on: OCTOBER 15, 2003 03:06:39

Maaaannn . . . the lobby before the show was packed with whos who of dance and music, all of whom I wouldnt recognize . . . Then, there walked the very recognizable Phil. He was not involved in the nights composition, for some reason, so he was strolling outside signing autographs and being wonderfully nice. I shook his hand and thanked him for Lurgee on Thursday.
Inside, there was no view of the pit from my seat and had to ignore hyper-flirty guy to the right. Things looked up when the curtain rose and all the participants lined the stage (bands and all). Mayor Bloomberg (say what?) made opening statements and introduced Merce Cunningham, who then proceded to roll dice to select what the costumes, choreography, back drop, and order of bands would be. Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns (say whaaaaaatt??) were there to help roll . . . and add more other-worldliness to the evening.
I had been strategically eyeing the empty seats at the edge of the balcony during the first half (an unrelated piece without the 2 bands), so during intermission, I went for them and mentally thanked the silly people who decided to skip. I could see everythiiiing!
Radiohead was first. Outside, someone said it was like the Gloaming and in retrospect, Id have to agree. Lots of samples, glitches, beats fading in and out, Thoms voice repeating sounds. There was a sample of a guy preaching something. They didnt have instruments, only soundboards, switches, laptops, and other contraptions. Theyd communicate by tapping on shoulders, giving thumbs-up signs, and of course, dancing.
I knew I could count on Sigur Ros to be the more ethereal of the two. They had previously recorded material as well, which they embellished with Aphex-Twin clicky noises and violin-bows playing xylophones (my, what that band can do with a bow).
Oh, yeah, the dancing . . well, youre not reading this to find out about them, so Ill say they did a great job, though it was hard to take my eyes off the pit. The whole roll the dice to decide which band goes with which dance idea was intriguing, but I think Id prefer dance to be choreographed along with the music, not just empty phrases with no counts or visible beats.
After, I enviously looked on as the industry crowd piled onto special buses to take them to the after party (some club called temple . .something).

Until next time, boys, until next time.

Submitted on: OCTOBER 15, 2003 10:21:15

A beautiful night at BAM!

It began with our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, introducing Merce Cunningham (gasp), who introduced Jasper Johns and Bob Rauschenberg (gasps!) among other folks...they rolled the dice to determine what would take place tonight. Radiohead would go first, then Sigur Rs (consistently mispronounced throughout the evening). Black and white costumes first, then color. Lighting plot 300, then 200. One set of decor, then another. Dance A, then dance B. Bloomberg had lots of praise for Merce, and mentioned that his kids think Merce is the coolest guy around, because he got Radiohead there. The crowd went wild.

They'd already rolled a die earlier that day to determine that Merce's "Fluid Canvas" piece was the first part of the evening (so they could rehearse the change-over, Merce explained). It lived up to its name. Dancers flowed across the stage, accompanied by a very modern score that could have been mistaken for a song by Matmos.

Intermission was wrought with chain-smoking and beer-guzzling by Eurotrash, gender benders, culturati and indie rock kids anxious to experience the second half of the evening, Split Sides.

After an announcement about what had been determined by the dice rolls, the lights went down, the curtain went up, and Radiohead began their portion. They were in the orchestra pit downstage left, with numerous laptops, a big patch board that had Jonny looking like Lily Tomlin, and a giant sound board. Thom was seen jumping up and down nervously before they began. Lots of bleeps and blips and whirrs...A stuttering vocal loop that was hardly understandable (something about church, at one point)... the dancers in their black and white costumes were sometimes paired, sometimes solo, sometimes seemed like an army. The backdrop was large, heavy brushstrokes of black and white streaks. A disk was suspended downstage with similar artwork. The music developed in an organic way from slow and droning, to a rhythmic frenzy and back again. The lights slowly faded on a solo dancer, which seemed to signal Radiohead to wrap it up, and 20 minutes of bliss ended to thunderous applause.

Seconds later, the boys of Sigur Rs began a soft tinkling sound, the dancer exited, the backdrop went up to reveal another, colorful one (looking like broken glass and neon lights, or icicles), the lights brightened and the staged was filled with colorful pink/black/yellow costumes. The music developed into a more complex soundscape, with a glockenspiel or xylophone chiming, the sounds of knocking and murmuring, and a ratchet sound. What was evident here was how Radiohead seemed to be immersed in their own world during their performance, but Sigur Rs was mostly facing the stage and watching the dance. The unison of the ratchet sound with the twists and stretches of two dancers elicited some applause and amusement. The music flowed from soft tinkling to more dramatic and back again for 20 minutes or so. The lights faded, the music ebbed, and the audience went wild.

Given all the attention to letting things happen by chance, it was a one-of-a-kind experience. What I thought was most successful about the evening was that by separating all elements (music, dance, lighting, decor, costumes), each element was equally important. Nothing was dependent on the other. There were many happy accidents that happened, when music and dance seemed congruent; a raise of the leg happens with the strike of a drum sound. But the juxtaposition of music and dance was just as interesting as the moments of congruency. Leaping, running dancers might be accompanied by a clicking, rhythmless noise.

What seemed to boggle us all was the fact that somehow this all happened. Somehow a famed modern dance company got Radiohead and Sigur Rs to write original music for them, and perform it live. One night in Brooklyn. Somehow the dancers rehearsed dances that were unrelated to the music (I have no idea how the dancers stayed together). Somehow giants of modern art were there. Somehow it all worked, and it could have gone 31 other ways.

Submitted on: OCTOBER 16, 2003 07:25:39

Hard to explain this evening, but easy to sum up...amazing. Anyone who enjoys modern dance (and I'll venture a few ballet afficionados, as well) would have been more than satisfied with this evening's study in shape, form, balance, and motion. So, how do Radiohead and Sigur Ros fit in? Well, Cunningham's dance is truly an example of modern evolution that sets trends rather than following them. Though, I believe that trends themselves are the result of a natural evolution of consciousness, and the "trendsetters" are really more in touch with the flux of the present. But I digress... The dance is choreographed not in lyrical phrases so much as a gestalt picture of multiple motions experimenting with the durability and sensitivity of balance and imbalance. Much as the music of the two bands has evolved into a study of the holistic properties of the music. It's not so much about hot licks and lyrical melodies over a standard, but rather the music works as one, as a combination of truly virtuosic performances that don't touch the familiarity center in your booty, but exude emotion and an acute sense of the entire experience of "now." The unity of parts and connection between seemingly independent entities really parallels much of our global society today (internet, globalization, cell phones, mass mobilization of like-minded people, etc.), which can result in either positive or negative executions depending on who and why things are done. Tonight was the meeting of the greatest examples of the positive. Seeing these bands come in and merge with another medium of expression was truly inspiring...a better choice for music would have been difficult to find. And seeing these rock stars sit back and embrace the role of support for the dancers was a rare view of the mastery of ego. Reviewing the music...picture all of the sampled parts/instrumental breaks/chaos from Kid A, Amnesiac, and HTTT, and just extend... I hope they release cd's of the music.

Submitted on: NOVEMBER 14, 2003 17:31:13

I found the Merce Cunningham performance to be completely inspiring, every aspect of it was simply incredible. It was great to hear Radiohead in such an unusual setting, and it worked so well, I hope they will continue to write music along these lines.
The format of the work, the order of music, dance costumes etc. in following Cunninghams philosophy, was determined completely by chance. The night started with roll of the die, and Radiohead was picked to play first. For their half of the performance the dancers wore varing black and white stripey swirly unitards, and there was a grey spider web-like background. The dancers paired with Sigur Ros wore colorful varigrated orange, pink, purple and black unitards, and danced in front of a beautiful pastel backdrop that reminded me of a hazy city scape.
Phil wasn't there tonight, nor were the guitars or drums. They had what I think was a tone generator manned by Johnny, Ed sat at a tableful of electronic toys, Colin worked a radio and the 3 laptops, and the huge mixing board was controlled by Thom, who also worked the computers. The piece started with a nice tonal repeating pattern, with beat patterns that gradually grew in intensity. Soon Colin added the radio which was tuned to a christian station, which was very erie to hear, and (of course) they then looped the radio voice eventually beyond recognition. The piece pretty much grew in intensity from begining to end, though there was a lot of variety in the types of sounds they used. I briefly recoginized the bass groove from 'the gloaming' but that's all that I heard from their albums. They had some really wild moments where it seemed like things were about to explode, and others that were really mezmerizing. Towards the end, Thom sang some highish notes that were quite androgynous sounding and had a beautiful effect. Over all the piece was incredible, I was completely drawn in.
It was totally involving of its own right. But when matched with the dancers the effect was very intense. It seemed that at times the dance and the music lined up perfectly in spirit, which was really great, but there were times towards the end when the music seemed much more active and intense than the movements of the dancers, and those were the points that I was most drawn too. Those were very 'radiohead' moments i think, a fragile thing surrounded by swirling masses of brutal chaos. Like the feeling you get when you're standing still next to a speeding train. At least that's what I get sometimes. But I'm wierd.
Let me say again that I'm so impressed with everything about tonight. Perhaps the most beautiful moment was the transition between the two dances, radioheads electronics fading into the pure calm tomes of Sigur Ros, the dancers and the background changing from grey to bright gorgeous color. I will never forget that moment. It was perfect.

Submitted on: NOVEMBER 14, 2003 18:51:02

This was a special experience for a Radiohead fan to see them in a one-off performance of a kind they probably have never done before . . . but hopefully will do again!
The venue is a beautifully restored opera house that used to host vaudeville acts and, later, movies. (My Dad was an usher there when he was a teenager.) Its now a very tony haven for experimental dance, music and theater a place where alternative is embraced . . . and thus a good place for Radiohead.
I was on the left in the fifth row of the first balcony a great spot for looking down into the orchestra pit where Sigur Ros and Radiohead had set up shop. There were no drums and no guitars in sight just keyboards, laptops, guitar pedals, and a mixing board. (Also a dozen or so ballet slippers set up like a kind of xylophone; not sure if they were ever used.) I recognized a couple of Jonnys keyboards including the ondes; but beforehand I mostly could not tell whose equipment was whose.
The evening started with a voice announcing, The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg! The curtain rose, and to the left of the stage stood Bloomberg and Merce Cunningham, now rather crooked in a charming sort of way, with a cane and a full head of white curly hair. On the right were the musicians, standing and watching all of Radiohead except Phil, plus Sigur Ros. Cunningham dancers in street clothes were warming up to the left and right, tumbling and spinning. The RH guys were dressed casually (of course), mostly in black. After Bloombergs clueless intro of Cunningham (Thom was making impatient gestures because it was so canned), Cunningham himself dispensed with the B.S. and moved to the job of choosing the order of things for the evening.
In keeping with the I Ching-influenced approaches used by both Cunningham and his longtime collaborator (now deceased), John Cage, the order of all the key elements of the performance were determined by chance operations. There were two stage sets, two sets of costumes, two backdrops and two bands. With the help of fellow New York art/theater legends Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, among others, rolls of the die were used to determine which of each would go first; in this way, the elements would all meet by accident, rather than by human intention.
The first piece of the night was not related to the bands; Ed, Thom, Jonny and Colin (still no Phil) watched it from a second-floor box almost even with my seat, not more than thirty feet away. Thom seemed to still be in the playful mood seen at the Garden; he waved to a few people and played a bit of hide-and-seek.
After the first piece came an intermission, and then Split Sides, with Radiohead performing first. Before the intermission, the group began to get settled in. Jonny took of his jacket, revealing a Hamilton P.A.L. T-shirt. Ed sat in the far right corner facing the stage, wearing headphones and presiding over a mass of pedals and other gadgets. (At one point, he consulted a little red notebook while making settings on his devices.) Thom also took off his jacket. The lights went down, and the crowd let out a long, loud rock-concert cheer probably not heard at previous Merce Cunningham shows!
The backdrop for the dancers (chosen by chance) during Radioheads piece was a wintry scene with some hints of trees and perhaps industrial scaffolding almost reminiscent of Kid A-type artwork. The music began with some electronic piano, also reminiscent of Kid, but quickly began evolving in many directions. The whole piece was based on repetitions rhythms, radio broadcast samples, brief melodies, strange sounds, and even some words or sounds sung by Thom live into a mike. The music was almost all keyboard- or computer-generated.
The piece seemed at first to be happening without the band, on tape; but they began adding more and more bits quickly. Thom stood mostly at the mixing console in the pit, changing levels and bobbing to sometimes-unheard rhythms even kneeling and bouncing at the same time. Jonny played the ondes, stood at his daunting board of wires and lights, and fussed with laptops. Colin seemed to walk around a bit more, playing what seemed like a small keyboard and also working the laptops. At one point he patted Thom on the back and seemed to say, Hows it going? Thom replied by turning his hands up and slightly shrugging his shoulders OK, I guess, he seemed to say.
Cunninghams dance style is not the Nutcracker, needless to say. It requires just as much skill, but involves more quirky movements sudden bends, dips, arm extensions, nods. There is humor, as well as sadness. The dance is not coordinated with the music; instead, the two co-exist in ways that are sometimes odd and sometimes very moving. For a while I kept wanting for Radioheads music to become a song; when I got used to the idea of it as just one element of the performance, it worked for me, at some moments better than others. There were times when the electronic sounds seemed a bit clich; I think Radiohead works best as a combination of acoustic and electronic. But there were many times when I felt the juxtaposing of Thoms voice, or a quirky phrase from the radio, and Jonnys noodlings and whatever else really came together and worked with the dance. Considering that these Oxford folks are first-time composers, I think it was something to be proud of. The fact that they managed to pull together a 20-minute semi-improvised instrumental and perform it live with a dance troupe is impressive, even for Radiohead!
The odd thing is that Phil never participated in any of it. I happened to see him in the lobby before the show and said Hello; he seemed fine. I can only assume that it was mutually agreed upon that he wouldnt do this particular piece, and that he was in the crowd somewhere . . .
The Sigur Ros piece was quite different not quite as good, I thought. Music-box-type melodies recurred throughout their piece, combined with a clicking/grinding percussion instrument (similar to the one Ed plays on Android), some bowing of xylophone keys, and other things that I could not see from my vantage point. I found the music box elements to be too comfy for Cunninghams dance, which is angular; and the use of the same instrumental elements throughout got to me after a bit. But the Sigur Ros piece still had some very moving parts, as well.
At the end, everyone came up on the stage, and the evening ended with all standing in a semicircle on the stage and bowing for repeated curtain calls.
It was a magical Radiohead night I felt incredibly lucky to be there. Heres to more experimentation and adventurous collaboration for the boys! (But next time, bring Phil into the act . . . )

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