Los Angeles. Music. Good Times.
“Sing along,” Thom Yorke told the audience at the Henry Fonda Theater on Sunday night, in case “I forget the words.” He didn’t, and he and Radiohead proceeded to give the crowd an incandescent version of “Fake Plastic Trees,” the rousing second song in a show that was the hottest ticket in town — and a noble one at the same time.
One of the most esteemed bands in the world has been in Los Angeles recording new music (theirpresence has been one of the worst kept “secrets” in recent music history), and after the staggering calamity in Haiti, the band was inspired to stage an impromptu benefit show.
“You’ll be catching us on the fly,” read a post late-Thursday on the band’s website announcing the show, a performance that offered fans the rare opportunity to see Radiohead in an intimate club. Sunday’s tickets could be bought by auction-only, and the closing minimum bid was $475, with the band pledging to donate all proceeds to Oxfam.
The spare stage and unvarnished show (Visual effects? Well, the band did have purple lights) fit the occasion, and the band was mostly crisp and chipper — not that this is a review. That would be rude amid the motivation and spirit.
“It’s for charity,” Yorke said after a mid-show false start, and right he was. At one point he also answered a fan’s bellow with a decidely British aside. “Luck yeah, as you say,” he muttered, although that first word was a different word that just sounds lucky.
The guest list was jammed with famous names (not that they got in free) such as Justin Timberlake, Drew Barrymore, Flea, Rosanna Arquette, Paul Thomas Anderson and many, many more. How much did fans want to see one of the biggest bands in the world? On Craigslist, there was an offer that went beyond cash and entered the territory of money shot, with one “die hard fan” offering access to the set of a comic-book-styled adult film. Fake and plastic, yes, but for a good cause.
Yorke, in Nike sneakers and blue jeans, was playful. “‘Just’ or ‘Airbag’?” he asked the crowd at one point, offering a set-list spirit that was more garage than Glastonbury.
The highlight? Pick one. Perhaps the solo piano rendition of “Everything in It’s Right Place.” The piano was pushed center-stage for Yorke, who seemed to be invigorated by the low-pressure forum and, perhaps, by the heartfelt ethos.
“It’s like a memory exercise,” Yorke said of a show that dipped into the band’s seven-album catalog. After playing a spindly, haunting new song, known among fans as “Lotus Flower,” Yorke announced the bottom line of the night: The gross of the show was $572,754. And, incredulous, he used the word that sounded like “luck” as he announced the total to the crowd. Serendipity in a time of need.
—Geoff Boucher (LA Times)
Look, I’m not one for hyperbole. If anything I get accused of being understated. But make no mistake, seeing my favorite still-performing band of all-time in a small venue was the best musical experience of my life, without question. That it was for a good cause is even better. Standing 20 feet from Thom Yorke is appreciating that with Radiohead what you hear on the album is exactly the sound they produce live. Thom Yorke’s vocals, Johnny Greenwood’s absolutely amazing guitar work: no disappointments, just my jaw on the floor the whole time.
This would have not been possible without the generosity of Teresa, who allowed me to be her charitable middle-man in supporting Haiti. I did my part and donated a bit more while there and got a nice little poster as a momento, but it’s really all her doing: my sincerest thanks, and I’m sure the people of Haiti thank you as well.