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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong - Live Recordings


1) The National Anthem; 2) I Might Be Wrong; 3) Morning Bell; 4) Like Spinning Plates; 5) Idioteque; 6) Everything In Its Right Place; 7) Dollars And Cents; 8) True Love Waits.

General verdict: Apparently, there IS a big difference between «live recordings» and a «live album».

As per the Wiki, The Radiohead live show held on July 7, 2001 at South Park, Oxford, in addition to all but two tracks included on this live album, also contained the following: ʽAirbagʼ (good song), ʽLuckyʼ (great song), ʽMy Iron Lungʼ (pretty good song), ʽExit Music (For A Film)ʼ (pathos, pathos, but still pretty good), ʽKnives Outʼ (the best song on Amnesiac bar none), ʽNo Surprisesʼ (I'm melting), ʽStreet Spirit (Fade Out)ʼ (very touching), ʽParanoid Androidʼ (a classic), ʽFake Plastic Treesʼ (aw, beautiful), ʽKarma Policeʼ (not a favorite, but I do remember how it goes), ʽThe Bendsʼ (alt-rock at its best), and even ʽCreepʼ — performed live for the first time since 1998.

Put it all together, crank it up, and who knows? I might even forgive a few bad tunes from Kid A and Amnesiac thrown in. A solid, representative, well-paced live Radiohead album is nothing to sneer at: everybody knows that the guys can pack plenty of punch anytime. But you see where I am getting at — instead, they opted to release a short, amputated mini-album, almost an EP by modern length standards, that exclusively contained material from Kid A and Amnesiac (along with one new track that we will get around to separately). Not only was this a fairly intentional effrontery to piss off the old conservative fans — an implicit statement that the old stuff is now obsolete — but it also pretty much nullifies the significance of a live album, since the farther they progressed, the less their music was sounding like a band product.

This is not to say that the live performances here do nothing but recreate the studio originals: as the greatest oh-so-not-rock band in the world, Radiohead could not allow themselves the luxury of putting out something completely and utterly redundant. For instance, not being able to re­create the brass pandemonium of ʽThe National Anthemʼ onstage, they go instead for an electro­nic pandemonium, in which Greenwood's use of the ondes Martenot is far more clearly visible, and the psychedelic pull of the swirling keyboards far stronger than the original — at the expense of dropping the nasty jazzy growl. Something like ʽMorning Bellʼ in this setting also sounds less clinical and sterile than in its stereo incarnation, with less prominent keyboards and extra guitar work. On the other hand, ʽEverything In Its Right Placeʼ is extended by about three minutes so that the audiences might be properly bombarded with sped up, slowed down, chewed up, and sprinkled down segments of Thom Yorke's voice — not much of a «live» performance here, but hopefully enough to make a few ticket buyers go crazy.

I do have to thank them for including ʽLike Spinning Platesʼ: if you wanted to hear that song done normally for once, with actual piano notes and a pretty Thom Yorke vocal performance, this is the version to go for, rather than the gimmickally chopped up electronic debacle on Amnesiac. It still remains somewhat shapeless, but at least this time we get healthy, natural shapelessness, instead of «prepared» shapelessness. And the strong, clear, masterfully modulated vocals here are just as much of a highlight as the ones on the acoustic ballad ʽTrue Love Waitsʼ that closes the album (one of Radiohead's most famous unreleased songs, written as early as 1995 but having had to wait twenty years for a proper studio take — admittedly, it does sound uncannily similar to Jeff Mangum's acoustic style on Aeroplane Over The Sea).

Nevertheless, the flaws of this album clearly outweigh its virtues... scrap that, actually, since the record is so short anyway that it feels silly to talk of any sort of «weight» anyway. As of now, it is merely a reminder of a simple, astounding fact — that there has not, in fact, been even a single major release of a live Radiohead show on audio or video. Everything there is is either very short, or very poor quality, or bootlegged, or done in the band's preferred «from-the-basement» format to specially promote one of their albums. It is as if they were afraid that by releasing a Radio­head Live At The Royal Albert Hall, or something like that, they would be sacrificing their integrity as the best oh-so-not-rock-band in the world. Some might call this humbleness, others might see it as vanity. I just find this a bit sorry. In the meantime, if you are a big fan, you pro­bably already have a bunch of live bootlegs and have no need for this; if you are a small fan, what use do you have for a bunch of alternate performances of Amnesiac material? well, other than to certify that these songs are still boring, I mean.

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