Sightings of pink albino dolphins are rarer that Radiohead concerts in New Orleans but Monday night a sellout crowd at the Smoothie King Center caught a glimpse of these musical unicorns in only their third Big Easy show in the band’s 25+ year history (previous stops: 1995 at Tippitina’s and 2003 at UNO Lakefront).
This time, in support of their latest record, A Moon Shaped Pool, the band took to the dark and foggy stage and unleashed a 25-song, nearly 2 and a half hour set of high- and lo-tempo gloom; an artistic and densely layered sonic jigsaw puzzle, mixing songs from the new record with tracks from band’s older releases including 90’s iconic, OK Computer, from which they played 5 crowd-pleasing songs.
Starting with the somnambulant opener, “Daydreaming,” the band masterfully alternated between beautifully melodic trance-like numbers such as “Desert Island Disk” and “How to Disappear Completely” then transitioning into pulse-driving, guitar-infused tracks like “2+2=5,” “Bodysnatchers” and “Morning Mr. Magpie.”
Lead singer Thom York possesses a stunning vocal range with one of rock’s purest falsettos which he brandished throughout the evening; placidly in “Videotape” and with vein-popping aggression in “Ideoteque” where he reminded the crowd that “this is really happening.”
1990’s classics including “Paranoid Android” and “Fake Plastic Trees” elicited the most crowd-connection with full-throated arena sing-alongs including “Karma Police” where the crowd took over the song’s final chorus acapella-style with lead singer Thom Yorke strumming his acoustic Martin guitar.
It’s not difficult to see why Radiohead, a band with very radio hits, commands such a rabid following: obsessively-complicated and gorgeously structured songs are played live with stunning precision in a fashion very few bands could even dream of executing. And to keep things interesting, the band insists on juggling an extremely complicated setlist each stop on a tour so no one, not even the roadies sometimes, know what sort of audible curveball the band will decide to launch into next.
We can only hope that it won’t be another decade-plus (or another pink dolphin sighting) before they grace us with their presence again.