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Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Rapturous return for masters of misery
Radiohead
Radiohead homecoming was not without technical hitches
By the BBC's Stuart O'Brien

Thom Yorke, in his best local accent, cursed as the elements conspired to give the local-boys-done-good a nervy opening at South Park.

"The only UK gig - no pressure" he muttered, as the mixing went awry and the keyboard failed.

But the evening ended with 42,000 wringing wet Radiohead fans singing along to Creep.

Radiohead
The weather suitably matched Radiohead's mood music
Some people didn't quite get it.

Not the girl in the DIY immerse your soul in love T-shirt, not the Steps look-a-likes in clinging tops and hipsters or the one with the Sean the Sheep rucksack.

Fellow local boys Supergrass didn't quite get it either.

Announcing their arrival with the phrase "this is a local gig, for local people" - they were unrelentingly cheerful, altogether too perky.

These lads had songs with verses and choruses - some with decipherable lyrics - they did harmonies - they chatted to the drummer while showing off their guitar virtuosity.

Good festival fare - students pogoed, or bodysurfed over the heads of the crowd before being cheerfully ejected by the bouncers.

At the end of their set, Supergrass did the decent thing and threw their guitars to the floor, in a well-rehearsed way that wouldn't damage them too much.

The drummer even chucked his sticks away.

They didn't get it.

Wistful

Beck had a stab at it. He began with a blues song that contained the line "looks like it's going to rain", and it did.

He was then quite mortified and tried to cheer everyone up with a pumping bit of blues harmonica and some pleasant country songs.

He managed to be wistful even, but on the whole, you thought he was probably quite content on the quiet.

Support bands Rock of Travolta (who, to my mind would be improved no end with a vocalist) and Hestor Thrale managed to be quite miserable. They sort of got it.

Icelandic band Sigur Ros probably caused a few Wright whales in the North Atlantic to prick up their ears, as their Morten Harket soundalike front man wailed into his guitar pick-up, and, to be fair, they did sound pretty fed up, but they lacked the depth of the true virtuosos of the art.

Right-on octogenarian Humphrey Lyttleton's band didn't get it at all. They were having a great time.

Lyttleton enquired if anyone had come from Mornington Crescent - unlikely, as this was not really a Radio 4 audience.

You had to wonder about the crowd. Apparently the head of security had decreed that this was not a gig, it was a festival.

So pensioners, young parents with buggies, hip chicks and Atari-logoed geeks, as well as a good sprinkling of the middle-aged, mixed with the normal, seething mass of late teen/early 20s festival goers.

What could possibly have brought them all together? Were they having a good time?

Orgy of angst

But that was just it. This wasn't about having a good time.

There's a scene in the film Amadeus, in which Salieri reveals that he stole Mozart's Requiem, which he hoped to play at Mozart's own funeral in a veritable 'orgy of death'.

Radiohead have made their name by providing their public with an orgy of angst. They are reliably, unrelentingly unhappy.

Hiccup

Finally they appeared, to rapturous applause, Colin Greenwood kicking straight in with the bass line from the National Anthem.

As they moved into Airbag, the mixing suddenly went out of whack, bringing the first expletives from Thom Yorke.

However the hiccup was short-lived and they moved quickly on to Morning Bell from Kid A (or was it Amnesiac, I forget).

Radiohead's third album, Okay Computer, released in 1997
The band played a mixture of old and new tracks

Yes, their songs are about fear, secrets and self-loathing, as a quick survey of the available (Radiohead-marketed) T-shirts would make you aware, but they remember, in spite of what Kid A may have led you to believe, that they are still a rock band, and, as Cartman, from the other South Park, might put it, they kick ass.

The new material from the last two albums sat very easily amongst the more familiar stuff (played over and over for the four years it took for Kid A to appear) and it gained immensely from being played live. The audience lapped it up.

It was everything we wanted and more. We didn't want them to leave.

After an hour and a half they tried, then came back for an encore.

Another four songs, everyone singing along to Fake Plastic Trees. More heartfelt thanks from Thom.

The deluge began, but this audience would not be denied.

Back on for two more - Talk Show Host and The Bends - to an ovation.

Encore

On for a third encore, with the rain lashing down, Yorke struck the first few chords of Motion Picture Soundtrack before the keyboard failed.

Accepting that it was "kaput" he had a better idea, to try "something a little older" and the band went into Creep.

Finally, the night drew to a close with 42,000 voices united in chanting "I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo - what the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here".

Somehow, it seemed fitting.

They all knew that they had been to the only UK gig worth attending that night.

A clearly emotional Thom Yorke, ended with "Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much".

Now all I had to do was to make my way the one-and-a-half miles through 42,000 fellow fans and torrential rain to spend another hour getting out of the car park.

Sounds like a good theme for a song - "Where'd you park the car? Where'd you park the car?".

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See also:

08 Jul 01 | Music
Radiohead dazzle home crowd
09 Jul 01 | Reviews
Radiohead: Press reviews
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