Radiohead, Victoria Park, Hackney

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The Independent Culture

This is the big tour we have been anticipating. At the start of the year Radiohead surprised fans with a tiny, free, first-come first-served gig announced via their website. This came months after they shocked the industry when they left their label EMI and sold In Rainbows online for as much as fans wanted to pay. Radiohead have always acted one step outside the mainstream.



They have pushed boundaries over the six albums they have released since their 2003 debut Pablo Honey. To witness the masses embracing and dancing wildly through a set that moves swiftly between the electronic experimentations of Kid A and their earliest rock anthems is to see those boundaries pushed further.

In tonight's set they dip into all their musical phases with great emphasis, especially during the first half that focuses on the dreamy and glorious In Rainbows. The album calls for precision and the tone to be just perfect, its emphasis on the ethereal quality of intertwining guitar melodies in which Thom Yorke's vocals merge to become another instrument.

Most impressive for a gig of this size is the clarity of sound that does their newest album and back catalogue justice, down to the wah-wah guitar of "Just". The complex guitar melodies and piano chords are rich and clear.

There are surprise hits from their early guitar-rock days that prove Radiohead can rock better than ever. "Just", from their early alternative-rock album The Bends, throws the crowd into a mass sing-a-long with the mantra "you do it to yourself". OK Computer's opening track "Airbag" is equally powerful. "There There" works up to a towering crescendo.

Yorke has spoken out about his past depression and even tonight, in front of 40,000 fans, he embodies the humility of the band: "Tonight, I was petrified. Thank you for the good vibes everybody".

There's something about the fragility of Yorke's voice which taps into melancholy and emotion. It is evident in the vulnerability of his solo playing at the piano in the first encore, "Videotape", when the intimacy of a smaller, enclosed venue would be more appropriate.

"Idioteque" from Kid A is the astounding pinnacle. In the instrumental section Yorke's arms flail madly but in time with the beat, as if possessed. It's a hair-raising moment and the crowd join Yorke as he jumps up and down to the twitching. The huge crowd closes in and becomes a unit. The number of people here tonight and their ever-growing fanbase proves that Radiohead are growing ever more powerful.

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