Radiohead, O2 Arena, London


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The Independent Culture

The most immediately striking thing about Radiohead's current show is the impact of their new double-drummer line-up, which transforms much of their repertoire, and not always for the better.

Like the multiple moving screens suspended over the band, the percussive dominance occasionally gets in the way of one's enjoyment. Presumably drafted in to help negotiate the more beat-driven material from last year's The King Of Limbs, second drummer Clive Deamer spends much of the show locked in feverish collusion with Phil Selway, their twin bald domes mirroring their shared industry, while between them, bassist Colin Greenwood recedes further and further from view as the show progresses. 

The increased power is instantly noticeable on the opening "Lotus Flower", here upgraded from shifty groove to a pulsing Neu!-style motorik; and when Jonny Greenwood abandons his bank of keyboards and guitars to join them, hammering away stagefront on a pair of snares whilst Thom Yorke and Ed O'Brien swap glistening shimmers of guitar on "Bloom", the effect is akin to an art-rock Allman Brothers, a confident blend of fluidity, grace and momentum. 

The downside is that the itchier drum'n'bass shuffle rhythms render large tranches of the band's back catalogue, from "Kid A" to "The Gloaming" to "Separator", a largely indistinguishable, amorphous terrain of jazz-rock noodling, during which Yorke's capering dance spasms - with his skintight black trousers, odd hair and jerky movements, he's like a new-wave Max Wall - provide a much-needed link into the songs' abstractions.

That's not a problem on the quieter, more distinctive pieces: "Karma Police" is gratefully grabbed as a crowd singalong, "Nude" provides the most graceful vehicle for Yorke's keening vocal style, and "Pyramid Song" only requires a few decisive piano chords to establish the haunting mood subsequently plumbed by Jonny Greenwood's mournful bowed guitar. 

Of the handful of new songs, "These Are My Twisted Words" is perhaps the most imposing, building up a space-rock groove of shuffling snares and guitar contrails, reminiscent of a more muscular version of the early Pink Floyd.

But the most impressive aspect of the show was the way in which the King Of Limbs material, which many fans initially found hard to love, provided some of the most persuasive moments, from the hurtling momentum of "Morning Mr. Magpie" to the glorious multilayered vocal arrangement of "Give Up The Ghost".

As the evening drew to a close with a deconstructed version of REM's "The One I Love" leading into "Everything In Its Right Place", it was impossible not to acknowledge that, despite misgivings about their more "Jazz Odyssey" tendencies, there's still more than enough in the right place to keep Radiohead at the cutting-edge.