My girlfriend hates Radiohead. She thinks that Thom Yorke sounds like he’s being tortured, and that their songs are depressing. She’s wrong, obviously, because I came away from Glasgow Green on Friday night elated at having just seen the best (and most carbon-neutral, apparently) band in the world put in a performance that it almost made up for the fact that it was chucking it down, and that I had just paid £3.30 for a paper cup of Carling.
In terms of live performances, the problem with a band of Radiohead’s stature is that they have too many good songs to squeeze in, so there are bound to be gems that don’t make it onto the set-list. Tonight, there was no ‘Creep’, ‘Lucky’, ‘My Iron Lung’, or ‘Street Spirit’, and yet it didn’t really matter because the material they played from latest album In Rainbows shows that those songs may as well have been written by a different band. This fact was illustrated with an epic performance of old favourite ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ which, although it provoked a sing-along so huge that it threatened to blow the grey clouds away from above Glasgow Green, felt curiously out of place alongside the frantic paranoia of more recent songs like ‘Idioteque’ and ‘Bodysnatchers’.
The songs came at a relentless pace all night, with only brief pauses while instruments were moved around the stage but, while Thom Yorke is no Dave Grohl when it comes to the on-stage banter, the frontman seemed much more relaxed than reports of previous gigs had suggested. He even employed the reliable old ‘how about them English’ routine, joking that the weather was so bad that we should all ‘move down south’. Indeed, Yorke – a fascinating figure at the best of times – proved endlessly watchable throughout, hurling himself around the stage during instrumental breaks during songs such as ‘There, There’ and looking like he was – wait for it – having fun.
Still, as strong as the performance was, it was difficult not to imagine how much better the whole experience might have been had the weather been more agreeable. It wasn’t dark enough to fully appreciate what looked like a spectacular lighting rig and, had it not been for the lovely lemon-coloured poncho I bought from an opportunistic vendor on the corner of Argyle Street (“Two for a fiver”, and still a bargain), I’m not sure I would have made it to through the set’s two encores. However, Radiohead can do many things but they can’t control the weather and it says much about their appeal that so many people braved the elements to see them. It says even more about the performance that the vast majority of those people walked away happy – if ever so slightly soggy – at the end.