Punchestown, 6 Oct 2000
Radiohead returned to Ireland last weekend to play three gigs under a big top in Punchestown. I went along to catch Friday night's gig by the Oxford group. The venue for Radiohead's first Irish gig in three years was thankfully much more intimate than the cold and distant football pitches that hosted the band's previous shows on these shores. The big top was an ideal venue - it held only 10,000, which meant there was no squinting at specks in the distance (click here for a rather different opinion on the venue!). The lighting and visuals inside the big top were also good, which added to the atmosphere no end.
Radiohead have always had the reputation of being a live force to be reckoned with and on Friday they didn't disappoint. They did however come on stage looking a little worse for wear - it appears that the long process involved in the making of their 'Kid A' album has taken its toll. Luckily, despite the caveman beards and the weary eyes, the old magic was alive and kicking. The band played for over two hours with a set consisting of songs from 'The Bends', 'Ok Computer and 'Kid A'. For me the highlight of their set was a frantic version of 'Climbing up the Walls', which saw Thom crouched over and singing into his guitar, while the music built up into a wall of noise behind him. Another highlight was 'Idiotheque' from 'Kid A', during which Thom went completely mental, one minute howling strange vocals, the next caught up in what looked like a bizarre war dance, limbs flailing wildly in every direction.
There was a lot of new material included in the set, some of the songs were very mellow, others quite psychotic. The crowd appeared to be somewhat bemused by the new songs. This is hardly surprising when you consider that many of them consist of Thom howling unrecognisable vocals to a fierce backdrop of sound, while other numbers see the frontman positioned off towards the back of the stage with his piano, oblivious to and detached form his audience. The band haven't abandoned all their guitars though and many favourites from 'The Bends' got an airing. This was to the great relief of the crowd, who moshed gratefully to the powerful guitar rock of 'My Iron Lung' and 'Just' and waved lighters along with 'Street Spirit'.
Overall this was one helluva show, top-class music in an interesting setting. It was all very weird and more than a little wonderful.
Click here for a completely different appraisal of Radiohead in Punchestown!