(Presentation of the article in the NME Originals issue about Radiohead from 2003)
THINK about it for a minute. Think about all the ways a band could mess up a gig. There must be thousands of ways of not getting it right. And with that in mind, imagine how amazing it would be if I were to try and convince you that the half-hour that they performed (and that’s the right word) before this besotted audience, Radiohead were perfect...
You see, to watch Radiohead perform in 1993, is to watch a rare and magical thing. You might recall that the same alchemical change happened to The Stone Roses tour years ago, or Suede last year. It was more than having their first hit single or that they ﬁnally learns to play well. Sure, all these things are happening to Radiohead, but the reason Radiohead now remind me of The Stone Roses then, is that the heavens have conspired to make them one of those groups who combine with the times to generate the most illuminative synergy. In other words there’s one f*** of a buzz about them.
Since I last saw his group three months, Thom Yorke’s star quotient has really begun to snowball. Tonight he's sporting a rather longer bleached barnet that would look like a gardening accident on most other people. On Thom however, it serves only to accentuate his runtish demeanour. I wouldn't normally be so insensitive, but the lyrics to so many of Radiohead’s songs (”I'm better off dead” or "I wish I was special”) would suggest that he already knows.
The irony of course is that these days Thom has made such an art at of looking troubled, petulant and sulky that it’s also very sexy. You realise this roughly around the point at which he announces "Ripcord" and stumbles backwards into his guitarists. The thick sound that ﬁlls every last crevice uninhabited by its fierce melody is a seriously disorienting thing, as indeed is the song that follows it...
“Creep” is the song that saved Radiohead. It's three confused, deeply poignant minutes have people stop seeing them as another corporate tax-loss band, and the sin of not hailing Seattle. It’s also a spellbinding showcase for the rap-dead cool of their lead guitarist. Putting Johnny Greenwood on a stage is like dropping phosphorous in oxygen. Not content with playing the whole f***ing concert bent double over his guitar like a stick-man aflame, Johnny is responsible for unleashing that crunching powerchord on "Creep", you know, the one that chimes dramatically for a compressed eternity on the words “creep” and "weirdo".
When I eventually get round I to writing my encyclopaedia of Great Pop Moments, "Creep" will comprise a whole chapter. The psychotic adulation it elicits from is sweaty morass of converts is validation enough. And me? Oh, it’s alright, I've just got something in my eye.
Alter a couple of encores it takes a titanic rendition of “Prove Yourself" - elevated to the gods by an acrobatic vocal performance from Thom, straining to be heard over his own guitar - to convince us that Radiohead can't possibly improve any more. He appears to be a man at war with himself, which is probably scant consolation for him, but mesmeric spectacle for us.
I haven't overdosed on hyperbolic steroids. Radiohead, in January 1993, are just "so f***ing special’, and they're coming to your town. Watch them paint it blood red.