That’s right. This was my first Radiohead concert experience. The last few times they’ve come remotely close to Milwaukee, life got in the way. Not this time. I’m a die-hard fan and the bucket list had to be fulfilled. I was able to catch the second show of the North American tour on Saturday, July 7 at the United Center in Chicago. This differed from most concerts I’ve seen the past few years because I did not have any type of media or backstage pass. I chose this route because I wanted the full concert experience. Also, Radiohead’s manager would not return any of my emails or calls.
I decided that instead of writing a concert review with a bunch of big words no one understands I would simply chronicle my experience. This will make life easier for all of us because the internet is riddled with reviews of this show and I don’t know any big words. Let’s begin.
1. Radiohead fans cannot handle their liquor
I would love to say this was a Chicago thing but alas, I cannot. As people traveled from all over the Midwest it must be charged to the fans. I saved one fan from falling down the acutely steep steps of the United Center. I’m positive he would have died. Just saying—he owes me his life. Another concertgoer was drunk and lost and decided to stop at my aisle and belt out his favorite songs for us to enjoy. His voice did not exist in the realm of decibels. It was a sound I cannot describe in words. As the night went on several more people almost took the “death dive” down the stairs. The one thing they all had in common was ensuring the drinks never spilled as they hurled towards the cement.
2. Thom Yorke gets better with age
Thom Yorke’s voice was so unforgivably perfect it brought tears to my eyes. The contorted falsetto took the audience to another world entirely. He did not miss one note. If I didn’t know any better I would think he was lip-syncing. Even when he absconded into his idiosyncratic dance moves his voice remained perfect.
3. I’m not the only black guy who likes Radiohead
For many moons I assumed there weren’t many black Radiohead fans like myself out there. I was wrong. There are many, which was a refreshing feeling. All too often I’m the only one (black guy) due to my odd taste in music. Radiohead clearly has what I call the “Steely Dan effect”—meaning black people like them but they aren’t exactly sure why. We all saw each other, gave the nod, yelled “Wakanda Forever,” and kept it moving.
4. I was seated next to the worst people in the universe
Besides the cumbersome drinkers, my area birthed some of the shittiest human beings on Earth. First was the older gentleman seated in front of me who clearly did not know how to dim the brightness on his iPhone 3. Throughout the show he would senselessly check his texts, blinding everyone behind him. I eventually tapped him on the shoulder and without words he turned his phone off for the last 15 minutes of the show.
The second group of morons were seated directly behind me. They talked through the entire show. They didn’t talk about the magnificent concert happening in front of them, though. It was a discourse on things such as hockey, eyeliner, and the temperature in Arizona. They too would eventually calm down at the end of the show.
Finally, there was my aisle. Everyone went to the bathroom at least three times and a few couples found themselves bickering, causing them to trek back and forth to resolve said arguments. This meant I was standing up nearly every 10 minutes to let people through. The end seat is a gift and a curse.
5. Radiohead has been using a second drummer for quite some time
I feel like less of a fanboy for not knowing that Radiohead employs Portishead drummer Clive Deamer. Clive has been on several tours alongside band drummer Phil Selway. So, for anyone wondering who was playing the shakers so vigorously, that’s your guy.
6. This was the best concert I’ve ever been to
I’ve seen everyone I’ve ever wanted to see. I’ve even seen people I didn’t particularly want to see (Future) that turned out to be incredible. Radiohead trumps them all. The light show was a spectacle alone. Lasers and beams of light intricately programmed for each song fiddled our imaginations to no end. The large kidney-shaped screen projected all the bandmates in real time in a grimy hue reminiscent of the opening credits of HBO’s True Detective. Most importantly, they did my jam, “2+2=5.” That’s one more off the bucket list. Now, if I could get Sade to do a set at Cactus Club.