Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 09:03 UK

Radiohead air classics in BBC set

Radiohead live at the BBC
The band played the London set for BBC competition winners

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News

Radiohead surprised a small crowd of competition winners by playing a set leaning heavily on their third album OK Computer during a special BBC concert.

The show, aired live on Radio 2, saw the band play three tracks from the album alongside several songs from their most recent album In Rainbows.

It was the second gig the band played on Tuesday, after a matinee show which relied on more recent tracks.

The concerts were ahead of a UK tour taking place in the summer.

Earlier this year the band were supposed to play the Rough Trade store in London's East End.

The gig was pulled at the last minute, with the Oxford quintet decamping to the neighbouring 93 Feet East - a similarly intimate venue, and the kind of gig they had not played in years.

Only 312 people could attend Tuesday's show at the BBC Radio Theatre in central London - a mere fraction of the numbers expected at the band's forthcoming summer tour.

Special show

But after so long headlining festivals and arenas, they did not show any nerves about being so close to their fans at this special show.

Thom Yorke
Radiohead were not fazed by the intimate show
After a tongue-in-cheek introduction from Radio 2 DJ Mark Radcliffe, Radiohead trooped on stage to resounding cheers, looking lean and happy.

Many of the songs on In Rainbows - direct, taut, punchy - sounded ready-made for their live sets when the record emerged last year. Fittingly, it was with a ragged version of Bodysnatchers off their newest album that Radiohead kicked things off.

Thom Yorke, Ed O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood presented a three-guitar line up, lighting up Bodysnatchers with flashes of stuttering guitar, aided by a tight, metronomic rhythm from bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway.

The band looked like they were having fun. O'Brien beamed massively as he wrung his guitar, while Colin Greenwood bounded along to the song's rhythm. Radiohead's po-faced reputation evaporated almost instantly.

Things took a darker turn with the follow-up All I Need, with its brooding keyboards. Yorke leaned against the piano, as if the song's oppressive mood was overwhelming even him.

Nude - a sparse, icily-cold ballad - is a track Radiohead spent more than a decade trying to get right. Originally written during sessions for 1997's OK Computer, it only made it onto record on In Rainbows. Tonight, as the set's third song, it was sublime.

Yorke's keening, imploring vocal was made all the more heart-rending given the intimacy. "Don't get any big ideas/ They're not going to happen," he sang. You could hear a pin drop.

From there, the band cast a quick look back.

The warped, howling guitar of OK Computer's Airbag filled the theatre, the first of three tracks from their landmark album. It rivalled Nude as the night's standout song.

Melodic grace

Thom Yorke
Singer Thom Yorke helped defy the band's po-faced reputation
Some Radiohead fans have complained the band's post-OK Computer albums lack its melodic grace.

As if to keep that element of their fanbase happy, the band played the album's downbeat closer The Tourist as well as Lucky, with O'Brien playing the song's chilling guitar line to roars and whoops from the crowd.

Jonny Greenwood spent much of the night flitting from guitar to mellotron to keyboards, while O'Brien added beautiful backing vocals to Yorke's voice.

A few false starts could not derail Everything in its Right Place, the opener to 2000's electronica-tinged Kid A. Yorke, on keyboards, eventually counted the band in.

The sparse, keyboard-heavy track on record was transformed into something much darker and insistent, with Selway's disco beat interspersed with snatches of Yorke's voice sampled and played back.

A heady, confused brew, it would have been a fitting end. However, Yorke had other ideas. Returning to the stage with Jonny Greenwood, the pair added a folk-tinged version of In Rainbows' Faust Arp to bring the night to a close.

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