Thom Yorke Storms New Orleans at the Mahalia Jackson Theater

15:54 October 11, 2019

Thom Yorke is known as the singer of legendary alternative band Radiohead. During the moments when the band is on the back burner, Yorke has been quietly and routinely experimenting in his own way, so far bringing three increasingly electronic led albums to the public, ending with this years excellent ANIMA. On Wednesday, at the Mahalia Jackson theater, Yorke brought his ANIMA world tour to a raucous, energy-infused crowd.

Promptly at nine o'clock, the house lights lowered. The backing screen flickered, illuminating the theater, while Yorke and his band casually sauntered out onto the stage and dug in for the somber opener, "Interference." The song is slow, dark, and methodical. Every note could be heard as Yorke, hunched over the keyboards, gave us an early taste of the type of ambient brooding he's become known for during the last 25 years.

Yorke and his various projects have become synonymous with elaborate stage designs, and this tour doesn't disappoint. The stage, as far as the musicians went, was slightly sparse, with only synths, keyboards, the accompanying stands, and not much else adorning the stage. Every now and then, a guitar came into play, but, mostly, the show was a showcase in ambient electronic experimentation. The lights and screen the band brought served to bring the atmosphere to a vividly wild display of trippy and disorienting lights that shimmered across the screen, being replaced with different configurations so fast that it was difficult to know whether to keep watch on the band members or on the visually beautiful lights filling up the Mahalia Jackson.

The set list featured many songs early on from Yorke's first two solo records, The Eraser and Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, such as the light flickering qualities of "Black Swan." "Pink Section," a slow and insular track, acted as a segue to the next set of tracks. While the first eight songs were essentially culled from his first albums, by the middle of the show, Yorke and his mates were ready to explore some of the most recent record, and with that they launched into selections from ANIMA, specifically "I am a Very Rude Person," as well as a selection from the haunting score Yorke provided for last years terrifying Suspiria remake. The song "Has Ended" worked as well in the live setting as it did in the film, and as the lights shimmered throughout the crowded house, the crowd lost itself in the intoxicating energy interspersing among the audience.

Yorke, typically and unsurprisingly didn't have much to say to the audience, choosing as he often has in his history of performing, to let the music speak for itself. Many other tracks were then featured from ANIMA including the frantic "Not the News," and the clap-happy chorus section of "Traffic."

By the time the band has re-emerged for the opening encore "Dawn Chorus," you could feel the appreciation shared between performers and audience. The energy was thick in the air as "Dawn" began, and even though it's a much slower, tragically heartbreaking song, there was a sense of serenity as Yorke's mournful mumbling imparted his meritorious musings. The show came to an end shortly thereafter with well known tracks "Cymbal Rush," and "Atoms for Peace," which would have been more than enough, except for Yorke closing the evening with a powerful rendition of his other band's song "Like Spinning Plates," as the throngs if people joyously celebrated one of the best, most originally mind bending shows experienced in New Orleans in a long time--a superb performance by a living legend.

All photos by Steven Hatley