Thom Yorke Gifts Los Angeles Two “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” Before The Holidays Watch Joey Waronker & Flea Join To Reform Atoms For Peace
LOS ANGELES, CA- Thom Yorke played two nights of nearly identical solo sets at the Orpheum Theatre but it’s clearly a testament to his remarkable energy and showmanship that fans who attended both evenings would walk away from night two feeling they’d had a completely different experience each time. Performing songs spanning across his solo career and that with Atoms For Peace, Yorke opened the set humbly at the keyboard with “Interference” from 2014’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” which has been the name of his sparse solo tours ever since. The third song in the set was the unreleased “Impossible Knots” and even with Yorke’s most obscure unreleases, you can still look around and find many people singing every word.
With long-time producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich and Dutch audiovisual artist Tarik Barri, Yorke dove into a 19-song set in which he slowly grew more and more unhinged. While many audience members were donning Radiohead t-shirts, I don’t think anyone was foolish enough to expect to hear anything but a live mix of just-Yorke’s esoteric beats and fierce wails. Fans were excited to get “Black Swan” and “Harrowdown Hill” from 2006’s “The Eraser” and you could see people lose themselves a little song-to-song depending on how much Yorke also lost himself. During a few numbers, he got behind the guitar, reminding everyone of the front man they’ve revered. “Amok” from Atoms for Peace swallowed the audience with Yorke’s spiraling falsetto and kinetic textures. Watching the performance almost felt like you were watching an organism come out of it’s shell, even if you were quickly taken out of this feeling each time someone with a top knot yelled out a bro-y “FUCK YEAH THOM!”
Thom, Nigel, and Tarik all seemed to be completely in their own world and at times, isolated at their stations during the show. The three were pushing buttons, twiddling knobs, bobbing heads and only occasionally glancing at one another from their podiums through the shapes and colors projected on their faces. If you weren’t familiar with it, you might not have a clue who was doing what on that stage, yet somehow they still made it feel like a symbiotic relationship. They were three cogs in a well-oiled pulsating sensory machine. If there were any technical mistakes made, nobody would have noticed through the frenetic rhythms and immersive visual landscape, and certainly not through Yorke’s dance moves of oblique abandon. This is a man who seems to be doing exactly what he wants at this moment in time and it really doesn’t matter, and has likely never mattered, what anyone else thinks.
The set began to come to an end with more unreleased tracks “Traffic” and “Twist” and by then, Yorke was sweaty and enjoying it. Loops, triggers, and all. Though it seems like he hides behind the soundscapes and projections of his solo-gigs, a man often thought to be an introvert, Yorke was enigmatic and fun. He shuffled and danced upstage holding his arms out and looking right into people’s faces. Most people were standing but even those sitting and bobbing with their heads in their hands were having some kind of religious experience, especially since seeing Thom Yorke live is a life-time rarity. Many of the fans couldn’t keep quiet about their experience. With one hand on their drink and the other combing their beard, they were having one on one existential conversations reminding us that everything Yorke does will be discussed at length, whether he likes it or not.
The trio left the stage with thanks and soon returned for encore 1 of 2. Yorke noted “We’re doing a lot of new songs because that’s kind of why we started doing this. This is a new one called “I Am A Very Rude Person”. This is the first variation in the set from the first night at the Orpheum where he played a different new song called “The Axe”. Next they went into (and reunited) “Atoms for Peace” with Flea on bass and Joey Waronker on a small drum kit. It was interesting to see the palpable excitement of both the people who expected this to happen and were still thrilled AND those who didn’t know this was going to happen and were also thrilled. Either way, it was a treat to watch Flea add in a bit of his punk stance and colored head-bang to take us just a tiny bit out of electronica-trance. How the grouping of Thom, Flea, and Joey came to be is still a tad perplexing but this proved to be no mismatch.
They closed the encore with “Default” and left us again. Many began to shuffle out of the venue only to kick themselves once, from outside, they could hear Yorke return to do one more starry track at the keyboard. Many people were expecting to hear the newly debuted “Unmade” from “Suspiria” – a soundtrack composed by Yorke for the 2018 horror film remake. But instead for night 2, he performed the sort-of-title-track “Suspirium” which was simple and beautiful with his forever-signature haunt. Yorke & Co returned to the stage for a bow and fans left the venue buzzing with adrenaline and satisfaction. A fulfilling last gig for many, for 2018.
Thom Yorke was supported by cellist Oliver Coates, who has also performed on Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” and Jonny Greenwood’s scores.