Radiohead, Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ- 8/12
Arriving in Philadelphia, I felt not like a fish out of sea but a fish in the wrong ocean, a grinning face on the wrong HD channel. The Beijing Olympics had been my travel companion from terminal to terminal across the red, white, and blue landscape. The somersault from Southern California to South Jersey was presenting itself as a feat more than medal worthy, but it would be the five men taking the stage who would steal and shake the podium.
Thom & Cos beautifully twitchy musical takeover of the United States has been as silently perfect as the borderline free release of In Rainbows, but as the bands North America tour wears on, it becomes clear that Radiohead is a band more than capable of playing, paying, and paving their own way.
Susquehanna Bank Center, formerly known as Tweeter Center, and E Center before that, is still tightly tucked in the shadow of the Philly skyline, in the Camden, New Jersey concrete cube that modern engineering completely forgot. But, once inside, this venue and river air prove its worth.
After a fitting sunset set from overqualified openers Grizzly Bear, it was time. As the sun and lights fell, Radiohead launched into 15 Step, a tickle before the slap of There There truly got things underway. The erotic hum of All I Need became the jaggurnaut The National Anthem, which ebbed too easily into Videotape, a piano beauty whose commanded silence unmasked the crowds genuine appreciation. The task of the show quickly became tracking mastermind Johnny Greenwood, as he jumped from guitar to keyboard to xylophone to drums to sample board back to his preferred guitar. The first true highlight came with the aptly named No Surprises, the kaleidoscopic last-call ditty from OK Computer. Soon came oldie The Bends and the numbing opiate creeper Climbing Up The Walls, a real musical highlight, before tour staple and new guy Bodysnatchers closed out the proper set. After a quick wave and a prompt return, the Radiohead collective dripped into House of Cards, the French-tickler off In Rainbows, a song so sensual you could hear the wedding bands loosening in the crowd of 7,000. After pleaser Lucky and Rainbows outcast Go Slowly," dedicated characteristically without reason to the patrons of the lawn, came the nostalgic combo of Just and Street Spirit. Just seemed the perfect closer for the night, and the evil precision of Street Spirit could add the exclamation to any show in any time zone, and it did just that this night in south Jersey, until Radiohead came back again.
It wasnt the second return to the stage that secured the gold. It wasnt the brothers Greenwoods guitar prowess or maestro Johnnys never ending sonic mischief, or the checkmate drumming of Phil Selway, or Ed OBriens constant vocal and six string influence, or the spot on vocal fireworks of shaky, pale whats his name? This was no the final product was greater than the sum of its parts show. This show was as great as the members of Radiohead woke up in the morning and wanted it to be. I cant help but feel that that stellar sunset behind the Philadelphia skyline was on the bands riser. They are that band now, and we as fans are only lucky participants.