Radiohead’s ACL taping is a triumph

Radiohead taped Austin City Limits last night. It almost feels like that’s all we need to say. This was a highly anticipated show, not only amongst the fans, but for us as well. Radiohead has been highon our wish list for years, so that rush of “When’s it gonna happen? It’s gonna happen! Now it’s happening!” has been buzzing through all of our veins for a long time.

Needless to say, the band delivered. Not the hits, necessarily – Oxford’s favorite sons have never been the pandering kind. A progressive rock band in the purest sense, Radiohead is always pushing itself forward, deconstructing and reconstructing its own aethestic, experimenting with its sound and presenting its latest iteration, rather than falling back on old habits and familiarity.  In Thom Yorke’s words prior to launching into one of the several brand new songs played during the night: “This is why we press on.”

In that sense, Radiohead gave us one hell of a show. “My face was melted at @radiohead” remarked @zee_funk on Twitter. Drawing almost exclusively from their last three albums Hail to the Thief, In Rainbows and The King of Limbs, the band blazed through some of its most daring material, adding drummer Clive Deamer (last on our stage with Robert Plant, who was in the audience) for extra polyrhythmic emphasis. “Little By Little”  made perfect use of the band’s distinctive three-guitar attack, the interlocking six-string lines slithering in and out of the skittering rhythms. “Myxomatosis” and “Morning Mr. Magpie” were jittery rockers seemingly influenced as much by caffeine as the electronica the band weaves into its rock tapestry. “The Gloaming” hit a unique balance between dissonant and ethereal, the instrumental parts almost fighting each other while singer Thom Yorke floated over the top. “Arpeggi” and the new song “Identikit” built a generous amount of tension into their swirling arrangements, smartly ending before the anticipated Big Rock Climax could happen.

We love it when artists play brand new material, and Radiohead graced us with the atmospheric, rhythm-heavy “Staircase,” the piano-heavy “The Daily Mail” and the lovely “Skirting On the Surface,” as well as “Identikit.” The band also resurrected the odd, intriguing “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy,” an old B-side that Yorke described as having “disappeared like a wet fart in the wind.”

The band ended the main set with the bizarre “Feral,” a strange but compelling mix of dub and Latin rhythms, and the frenetic “Idioteque,” a Kid A gem that got a huge response from the crowd. But not as huge as the final song of the encore – the towering “Paranoid Android” still stands as one of modern rock’s greatest achievements, and everybody gave the band’s fiery performance the love it deserved.

“After Radiohead tonight, I don’t feel the need to RSVP to any more sxsw events,” claimed @chu16 on Twitter. “My experience has already peaked.” While we’d never claim that a single show summarized an entire concert-going career, once the rest of the world sees this performance on PBS in the fall they’ll understand the hyperbole. Radiohead’s show represents what can be achieved by an artist determined to dive deep into the heart of its muse. Or, as @HeatherCuriel put it more simply and breathlessly, “passion, life changing, beautiful. rock and roll is alive.”

But you don’t have to take our word for it – check out what Examiner.com, Austin Metblogs, KGSR, and Austin Bloggy Limits had to say about Radiohead’s ACL taping. And don’t forget to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and let us know what you think.