Saturday, August 16, 2008


Last night's Radiohead concert at the Molson Ampitheatre in Toronto was awesome. The ampitheatre apparently holds about 16000 and it was definitely packed full for the concert.

The opening band, Grizzly Bear, was ok but they were sort of forgettable, unfortunately. It wasn't that they were bad or anything; they just didn't really stand out. Radiohead definitely stood out. It wasn't just that their music was awesome (it is), but that the stage and lighting were amazing.

The back of the stage was had screens alternating with spots for big hemispherical things hold six or seven lights. So at the bottom, behind the band, was a lighted screen that was either projected or permanent LED lights, then there was a black space, and above that was a projection screen. The hemispherical light things mostly stayed above the upper screen.

In front of the screens above and beside the band, filling most of the stage, were twelve columns of six pole-things each. The poles could be lit from outside or from within. There were camera people on top of the pole structure and in other places filming the band members from different angles. Above the stage was a band of four rows of individual lights. There's an interesting discussion on the lighting and generator system they used here.

While the band played, the film from the camera people was manipulated and projected onto the upper portion of the screen at the back and onto the jumbotrons facing the crowd. Some of the manipulations were cool; for example, one of the band members was wearing a shirt with a cat's head on it, and that image was continually brought down over one of the other bandmates, turning his head into a cat. Sometimes the image was reversed and overlapped. The lower screen usually had some sort of free-flowing wave pattern on it. Everything on the back screen was pretty well monochromatic in reds or yellows or magentas or whatever.

In deference to their latest albums, In Rainbows, a lot of colours were used in the show. These colours didn't necessarily go together :) At one point the poles were cyan or turquoise in colour and the back screen was all magenta. The lights on top sometimes stayed stationary and sometimes moved; their colours varied between the pole and back screen colours. Personally, I think that much of the light show was designed to foil people with cameraphones and portable cameras. Using complementary colours of the same intensity for the poles and back screen with lots of movement in those colours, plus the fact that the band was backlit, made the pictures we saw just big blobs of colour in the centre.

Some of the things they did with the poles were just beautiful; at one point it looked like sparkly bits of light everywhere, and at another, they had a checkerboard effect moving over the poles. It was very sophisticated.

The music was fantastic. It sounded very much like the albums, which I liked. They did a lot of instrument changes in order to play all of the different songs. One of the things that I liked about the image projections was that you could see what each band member was doing (in a way) and that, together with the other lighted stuff going on, meant that the band members didn't really need to "perform". It was clear that each person was just doing what they do as though they were doing it in their own living room; they seemed sort of relaxed and intent on their music at the same time. In this way, there was less pressure on the band to be "on" as it was hard to see them as they were anyways. I'd read that they burned out after their world tour about ten years ago and I think that this technique will help them get through this world tour.

Interestingly, they didn't ever announce the band's name or the band members; in fact, the band barely spoke to the crows at all. I think the lead singer spoke to the crowd twice. They also didn't play some of our favourite older songs like Karma Police, Paranoid Android, Creep, Hail to the Thief, and 2+2=5. They do have 20 years of material to draw on, of course, and there's only so much they can play in two hours.

The band did two encores but the second one was very short. Their final exit from the stage was beautiful. They played Everything In Its Right Place while scrolling the lyrics across the poles. There's a lot of repetition in the song and as each band member set up their repetition, starting with the lead vocalist, they raised their hands to the crowd and exited the stage. Eventually the music wound down and two roadies came on stage to turn the rest off while the light show dimmed and went out. This exit gave the crowd a chance to acknowledge each band member and gave each band member a chance to say goodbye to the crowd. It was very cool.

We both enjoyed the concert very much. If Radiohead does come your way or you do get a chance to see them play live, I'd strongly urge you to go and see them. Their show is well worth the time and cost.

We got very lucky with the seats we had. They were just on the outside of what was covered by the roof and so we hardly got wet when it rained. As well, since there was only an aisle directly in front of us and we were raised above that aisle, I could see the stage quite clearly throughout the concert. Everyone stood for the whole thing so seeing was easy; if we were sitting down, I wouldn't have been able to see because people were standing in the aisle in front of us.

One thing that amazed us was the number of people who were not at all prepared for the weather. It's like they never bothered to check the forecast and so there were some very, very cold people even though they were selling rain ponchos for $4. We both enjoyed looking at all of the people and seeing what they were wearing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oh man grizzly bear were awesome
you're crazy

they aren't radiohead but they are fucking great