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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Radiohead's canvas comeback
Thom Yorke
Millennial angst: Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke
Radiohead's world tour hits London this weekend - days before the release of their eagerly anticipated fourth album.

The three concerts, held at Victoria Park, Hackney in a specially-designed "acoustically-tweaked", 10,000-capacity tent, sold out within weeks.

The current tour, which kicked off in June with gigs across Europe, follows a one-off show at London's Meltdown festival, and two dates earlier this month in Newport, south Wales.

In the three years they have been out of the limelight, the five-piece from Oxford have seen two of their albums, 1997's OK Computer and 1995's The Bends, top polls of music writers as among the best rock albums ever made.

Evolution

OK Computer
OK Computer: A number one hit voted the best album ever by fans
Radiohead have evolved a great deal since their debut album Pablo Honey, was released to a lukewarm reception in 1993.

The stand-out single Creep, which revealed the band's ability to grab attraction with its self-mocking lyric and crunching guitar riff, had difficulty getting exposure in the UK for a year.

But a San Francisco radio station picked up on it, followed by broadcasters across the US, and the anthem finally hit number seven at home.

Radiohead tour dates
23, 24, 25 September: Victoria Park, London
28, 29 September: Glasgow Green, Glasgow
1, 2, 3 October: Victoria Park, Warrington
6, 7, 8 October: Punchestown Racecourse, Dublin
Late October: USA and Canada
The follow-up, The Bends, had few stand-out hit singles, but was widely admired by critics and its popularity largely spread by word of mouth. Backed up by constant touring, it peaked at number four in the album charts.

Rave reviews

The release of their more complicated third album OK Computer was greeted by rave reviews, and gained the band a Grammy award for best alternative album, and Ivor Novello awards for the songs Karma Police and Paranoid Android.

But a gruelling two-year tour, captured in the 1998 fly-on-the-wall documentary Meeting People is Easy, pushed the band to breaking point.

Singer Thom Yorke came close to a breakdown, recording sessions in Paris and Copenhagen produced no useable material, and trivial arguments almost led to a split as the band struggled to fathom out their future in the spotlight.

Ed O'Brien
Under Pressure: Ed O'Brien recounted the group's crises in his online diary
Yorke told The Guardian about his disillusionment: "I was a complete mess when OK Computer finished, I mean, really, really ill.

"There's nothing more boring than being a rock star - someone who has been on the road for 10 years, expecting attention wherever he goes. There is nothing more pointless."

Now the band have adopted a new strategy.

For Kid A, they have adopted unfamiliar ways of writing, with a new-found interest in digital effects, less prominent guitars - despite having three guitarists - and concentrating on rhythm rather than melody.

The result is an album which many will find difficult to listen to, even more so than OK Computer.

They have decided to avoid the press - despite the huge media interest in Kid A. They have not undertaken a record company photo-shoot for three years, and the group are giving very few interviews.

Most of their promotion has been via the internet. Guitarist Ed O'Brien has kept an online diary for the past year, while music news websites such as NME.com and Dotmusic have been offered "i-blips" - a mini-website to promote the band, designed to replace the conventional promotional video.

Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood
Tour trauma: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood during the OK Computer tour
They have opted out of the rock venue circuit and are eschewing dealings with corporate sponsors altogether.

Opinion on them is sharply divided - while the music press still appears to hang on Thom Yorke's every word, others accuse the band of simply being pretentious for the sake of it.

But Yorke is clearly proud of their new album - even if he joked that his old producer - Nigel Godrich - "thought I'd lost my marbles".

Despite their unwillingness to deal with the media, Radiohead have a busy year in front of them.

Just six months after the release of Kid A, Radiohead are due back in the studio to work on a new album slated for a Spring 2001 release.

Containing the more accessible material the band have written and recorded over the last two years, it will be promoted by a full-scale tour of the UK and Europe.

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