Radiohead (WHAT STAGE – 10PM )
This was the set to see and the most talked about set of the weekend. This comes as no surprise(s), Radiohead is credited with putting Bonnaroo on the map after their legendary set in 2006.
With a knack for spacy, atmospheric, and twisted rock music; the stage was set (literally and figuratively) for a once in a lifetime experience.
One singer Thom Yorke would later say was one of the bands all-time best sets.
Radiohead opened with the lead track from its most recent album, The King of Limbs. The song “Bloom” begins with a quiet-yet-frenetic instrumental over dueling drummers jazz influenced beats. The massive audience fell silent until Yorke came in with the sustained opening lines “Open your mouth wide”. The crowd obliged, cheering wildly. There were few of these wild moments throughout the duration of the set, as Radiohead relied heavily on material from King of Limbs, which could test the patience of even devoted fans. Newer, unrecorded songs like “The Daily Mail” and “Identikit”, fit in with King of Limbs material. While these songs are stunning in their own right, few have the release to match the build, and it was the bands’ older material that was greeted with the most enthusiasm. The hit “Karma Police”, with its chorus “This is what you get / This is what you get when you mess with us” provided the only sing-a-long of the evening. A few other stand-outs from the band’s catalog; “Bodysnatchers” and “15 Steps” from In Rainbows, “Optimistic” from Kid A, and the set closing power-house “Paranoid Android” from OK Computer, were all set highlights, breaking up some of Radiohead’s more experimental new songs.
Thom Yorke seemed relaxed, and his vocals were perfect in their imperfections. He addressed Bonnaroo a couple of times, mentioning the audience’s sleeping conditions (face-down in the dirt). He also made a point to thank Jack White, which he didn’t elaborate on beyond “You’ll find out soon enough.” While the WHAT STAGE had its share of audio difficulties throughout the weekend, their Friday night set was spared. The vocals were mixed and effected perfectly, soaring and echoing out into the field. Both drummers, Radiohead original Phil Selway and on-loan from Portishead Clive Deamer, played flawlessly as the band’s secret weapons for bringing their complex new sound to the live scape.
Though the stage was barely visible from the back of the crowd, the impressive light show highlighted each of the bands 6-performers, occasionally focusing on one, the other, or all simultaneously. During the show’s most memorable moment, Thom Yorke sat at a piano with all cameras zoomed into his face, and then his further into his eyes. They then split apart into six different screens.
Despite the distance between the stage and the fans furthest back, it felt as Thom Yorke was looking right at you.
It was this type of feeling that set the bar so high for live performance. This wasn’t just a good time. This wasn’t a party to dance around and sing along. Instead, those in attendance moved slightly side to side, or stood still, too stunned and affected to find the rhythm. The huge riff exploded at the instrumental climax of “Paranoid Android” to end the encore, leaving fans with mouths open wide, lingering like the brightly colored lights and feedback of a performance that wouldn’t be matched the rest of the weekend.
Read about Bonnaroo’s other headliner:
Read about Bonnaroo’s other dates: