Thom and Flea: rock's odd couple

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The Independent Culture

There was considerable bemusement among Radiohead fans when Thom Yorke this week appeared on stage in Los Angeles with a new live supergroup starring Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was, everyone agreed, the least likely alliance in rock music.

Just as unexpected was the choice of set list: both Sunday and Monday's sets were dedicated to the playing of Yorke's debut solo album, The Eraser, in its entirety – an album which comes from the most experimental depths of the Radiohead frontman's creative vaults. By Yorke's own admission, the 2006 electronica album's "Harrowdown Hill" is the "most angry" song he has ever written, so Flea's brand of funk slap bass would not, on the surface, seem to be the ideal accompaniment. Still, fans were surprised to witness the unlikely pair dancing together at the front of the stage. In addition to performing The Eraser, their 80-minute set included a selection of new songs.

The shows were a last-minute surprise for fans: on 29 September, Yorke posted the news of tickets for two official concerts at the Orpheum Theatre – a 1920s cinema – and mentioned the starry line up on Radiohead's Dead Air Space website. "In the past couple of weeks I've been getting a band together for fun to play The Eraser stuff live and the new songs etc. to see if it could work," Yorke wrote. "We don't really have a name and the set will not be very long cuz... well... we haven't got that much material yet! But come and check it out if you are in the area." Days later, Yorke, who has recently been seen DJing in LA, announced the addition of a 600-capacity warm-up show at the Echoplex nightclub. The tickets were an instant sell-out. Among the 2,000 fans at the seated Orpheum Theatre were the film stars Anne Hathaway, Woody Harrelson, Ed Norton and Tobey Maguire.

The new band, which also featured the longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on keys, LA resident and Beck drummer Joey Waronker, and Brazilian artist Mauro Refosco playing Latin-flavoured percussion, is still without a name. They had just three weeks to rehearse for the shows.

Fans of Red Hot Chili Peppers will be relieved to hear that Flea will return to his day job in the studio to record the band's new album, after a two year hiatus. The band's drummer, Chad Smith, recently released his instrumental solo album as Bombastic Meatbats, Meet the Meatbats. Meanwhile, Radiohead have also been busy of late, releasing new songs "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" and "These are My Twisted Words", while Yorke released a new single on 12 inch vinyl, "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses"/ "The Hollow Earth".

So what comes next for mainstream rock's foremost experimenters? In August, Yorke suggested that there may not be another Radiohead album, and that the band may focus instead on releasing downloads.

But will anything surprise us now?