They came on stage bathed in white light, to the haunting piano refrain of Daydreaming, from last year’s A Moon Shaped Pool album. Two hours and a-half hours and 25 songs later, they closed with Karma Police, singing: “For a minute there, I lost myself.” It felt like a perfect metaphor for the band’s power to transport an audience.
Last night’s performance came on the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s first headline set at Glastonbury. That show, which took place just weeks after they released OK Computer, has often been called the festival’s best ever performance. However, frontman Thom Yorke recently said he had been on the verge of walking off the stage, after the band’s monitors exploded, meaning they could not hear each other.
“I just went over to Ed and said, ‘I’m off mate, see you later,’” he recalled.
“He turned around and went, ‘If you do, you’ll probably live the rest of your life regretting it.’ I went, ‘Good point.’”
This time round, there were no such problems as the band embarked on a career-spanning set that held their experimental and anthemic qualities in perfect balance. Airbag was thrilling, Pyramid Song devastating, and Everything In It’s Right Place a pulsing, twisted Radiohead version of a club classic.
They even pulled out the much-maligned Creep – the angsty, teenage anthem that gave them early success, but became a millstone around their necks as they matured into a fearlessly experimental art-rock outfit.
Things got political – briefly – during No Surprises, where the lyric “bring down the government, they don’t speak for us,” elicited a huge cheer from the festival’s left-leaning audience. As the song ended, Thom commented: “See you later, Theresa. Just shut the door on your way out.”
That aside, the frontman rarely spoke during the set, except to thank Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis “for having us at your lovely farm today. Thank you very much for coming to this field to listen to us this evening,” he added during the encore. “Probably we’ll see you in some other fields over the weekend.”
What a fascinating performance as always.
Thank you, Thom!
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