The Old Gaol, Abingdon
The five young men lounging about in the hotel bar after their storming sell-out performance seem to be having the time of their lives. They're surrounded by breathless girls eager to make their physical acquaintance and you can tell from the glint in their eyes that tonight, as always, they're going to make some young fans very happy. Oxford certainly has never seen anything like it. Yep, The Chippendales sure know how to party.
Ten miles away in Abingdon, meanwhile, the anti-Chippendales are quietly chatting to their parents and close relations. They too have just finished performing to an ecstatic full house, but this particular fivesome are unwinding in a manner befitting local lads who've just managed to raise £7,000 for Rwanda. No groupie groping for them. In fact, they have a strict rule against it/ Which makes what happened tonight all the more ... bizarre.
The moment Radiohead walk onto the stage a wave of excitement surges through the mostly teenage crowd. There's a strong feeling of love for what is really Abingdon's own pop group, so much so that Thom's announcement that "every song we play is for Rwanda" is greeted with a deafening roar of approval, and opener Prove Yourself brings out the most maniac in almost everyone, despite containing the rather uncharitable line, "I'm better off dead".
These kids are beside themselves because they know that Radiohead's show will satisfy one of their basic primeval urges. For no other reason than the vigours of youth, everyone present is desperate to howl at the moon - and what better way of letting off steam than exerting yourself while someone else does the emotional dirty work. You don't even have to join in physically, just identify with the cathartic rage exploding before you. Hence the response elicited by the new songs, which simply build on what's gone previously. No need for surprises here, only satisfaction. The fit that Thom has during Just is familiar but totally justified - again, he's gyrating in time with our feelings and frustration. Similarly, Blackstar indulges our delusions of grandeur, flouncing along with the aloofness of a tortured entertainer, because it's another way of scratching that itch.
Naturally, Creep is the pinnacle, but not to the detriment of the rest of the set. If anything, it's more like a theme tune, a banner under which we can mach on the outside world - and actually it's new single My Iron Lung that epitomises this evening's feeling of passionate inhibition, not least for the moment when a delirious female fan clambers on-stage to dance svelte-like around Thom and the dazed singer completely forgets his words.
The real point here is that for these kids, Radiohead are the Chippendales with brains. After all, titillation is the most you could hope to get from watching a hunk of flesh, while these skinny boys stir loins with their confidence and tweak heartstrings with their honesty. Best of all, when the show's over, Radiohead won't be trying to force their sweaty bodies upon you, and so a much better time can be had in private with your imagination. "You're a sex god, Thom," shouts one over-excited fan. And in a strange way, he might just be right.