Photos and review: Radiohead at the 1stBank Center - Reverb

Live review: Radiohead @ the 1stBank Center

Halfway through Radiohead‘s Coachella-prep show at the 1stBank Center on Tuesday, the band settled into a surprisingly faithful “Karma Police” — and a strange thing happened at the smallish suburban arena. The fans went crazy at first, of course, but the familiar song seemed to have an adverse affect on the band.

Granted the Brits aren’t known for jazz-hands stage charisma, but the hit song came off like an unfortunately necessarily inclusion in a night of otherwise-boundary pushing live music. Frontman Thom Yorke wasn’t feeling the down-tempo jam from 2000’s 1997’s “OK Computer.” The band eventually gave in as the ever-building chorus of “This is what you get” became the night’s biggest (and most reluctant) singalong. The six-piece even seemed to sigh a contented sigh when it was over.

And so did some of us in the audience.

Before we go further with this: Tuesday’s set was a modern masterpiece, a vibrant and important clash of a genius-glitch catalog and the most technologically advanced lighting rig to ever hang from the 1stBank Center’s rafters. Radiohead is bringing its big guns on this tour — and they need to, since they’re headlining the first-ever two-weekend Coachella next month.

That said, the “Karma Police” happening revealed one of the band’s few weaknesses. When “OK Computer” was released, it was the band’s “weird” and “arty” album. And now, especially when held in comparison to recent releases “The King of Limbs” and “In Rainbows,” the song sounds traditional and dated — and almost anachronistic. It wasn’t bad on Tuesday night. But it was a low point in a show that had very few of them.

Not to nitpick. But it was a surprise. And the subdued energy in the arena — singalong be damned — told me that I wasn’t the only one who felt the disconnect.

The rest of the show was a lesson on how to bring it. Yorke, dressed in a leather vest with his hair tied back, guided his group along a windy road that covered nearly two decades of material. The new “Morning Mr. Magpie” was a massive highlight early on, and the band closed its set with “Street Spirit” off ’95’s “The Bends” — fade out, indeed.

The lights? It’s hard to explain. A giant, light-triggered backdrop filled the rear of the stage, and a long and horizontal screen topped the proscenium. And the panels — my God, the panels. The 12 panels/screens hung over the band in various formations and told a story. Close-ups of the guys, Yorke & Co. Instruments in and out of focus. Chaos in animation. They were wonderful and lovely — and likely a fetching peek at the band’s Coachella set.

Jittery. That word kept coming to mind as the group worked its way through a frenetic set of dance floor fillers — songs that put LCD Soundsystem’s live show to shame — and methodical almost-ballads. “There There” might be the best song in the band’s live catalog. Or maybe that’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” with its lemon-sucking references and self-sampled delights.

And we got both of them in the encore — the first encore, that is.

The second encore started with a hauntingly acoustic “Give Up the Ghost” — another new track off “Limbs” — and it was a stunning display of Radiohead’s ability to mix it up and make it work. Fast-slow-fast. Mellow-messed up-stark. They’re one of the biggest live acts in the world for a reason — and the lucky fans at the 1stBank Center on Tuesday night got an unusually intimate look at the magic as it unfolded.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

Daniel Petty is a Denver-based photographer and social media editor at The Denver Post.

  • Randy

    Great show, but one problem with your review: LCD > Radiohead (although last night’s light show was, as you point out, absolutely spectacular).

    • CHJ

      While I appreciate your devotion, pretty sure even James Murphy would disagree. LCD would not have existed nor had the impact it did and continues to have without Radiohead. I’m not even a big Radiohead fan. Just trying to be objective.

    • Ricardo Baca

      Love LCD. Love Radiohead more. 

      • Randy

        CHJ, neither Radiohead or LCD would have existed nor had the impact they’ve had without the Talking Heads or David Bowie. How far back do you want to go?

        Ricardo, I enjoyed your review–and your writing in general–but I like Radiohead and love LCD. Radiohead is a little too “Important with a capital I” for my tastes, whereas LCD has a little more humor about who and what they are. That being said, I loved last night’s show…

  • sebast975

    Were you high? How was the crowd “disconnected” if they were singing along to Karma Police? That song was definitely a highlight of the show for me.  

    • Tim

      No, Ricardo’s right… “Karma Police” was flat and the band sounded bored. I disagree with a lot of this review (I found much of the show tedious, and the sound mix, at least where I was sitting, left much to be desired). However, I totally agree with the “Karma Police” thing. Totally surprising, especially after seeing them close with that at Red Rocks in ’04, and it was huge.

  • Greg Reck

    Correction: OK Computer was released in 1997, not 2000. Otherwise, great review and amazing show!

    • Ricardo Baca

      Thanks much – got it!

  • 2tacostoparadise

    Amazing show. Totally agree about Karma Police falling flat. Interestingly, Lucky was one of my favorite songs they played and that was an OK Computer song. Maybe I was dazzled by the white-hot crescendo lighting, but it seemed like they were into it for sure!

  • Fourskor

    Ricardo, I have to respectfully disagree on:
    1. The Karma Police assessment. From my section, twas electric. Sounds to me like you were situated in one of the few Debbie-Downer sections of the arena. Upon completion, I felt a collective surge of energy accompanied by a deafening roar of approval. In fact, the tune summed up our thoughts leaving the show: “Wow – the crowd was feeling it tonight!..and Radiohead was feeling them feeling it…and responded in kind.” 

    2. The general OK Computer assessment. Not a single note of “Lucky” felt traditional nor dated, and I suspect that had we been treated to a “Paranoid Android,” the arena may very well have imploded.

    Great review, nonetheless. “And the panels – my God, the panels.” So spot on. The entire “light show” was just unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in many, many years of concert-going.

    Thom Yorke may very well be the greatest frontman in contemporary music.

  • Bubba

    It is too bad you can’t appreciate OK Computer since it was evident that you (the writer of this article) didn’t even know when it was released as noted by the cross out of the year 2000 and1997 put in. Ask any true Radiohead fan, ones who were alive or more than 5 years old in 1997 and they will tell you OK Computer was their best album. Karama Police and Lucky being some of the best the album offers, but they are all good. Clearly you and he crowd only are aware of what Radiohead has done since Hail to Thief as is evident by this article as well as the reaction by he crowd to he older material which is as good or better than heir new stuff–just different.

  • John77

    This has to be one of he worst reviews of a Radiohead concert I have ever read. Learn to get your facts straight and learn some of their older material and maybe you will be able to write a better review.

  • Johnwinter23

    this review is crap.