Seeing his favourite band in the flesh, Paul Riley braves the tourists for Radiohead’s massive gig in Manchester.
Ah, The Radioheads! There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love them and think they are one of the greatest groups of musicians ever to grace a stage, and those who are wrong and had better not talk to me about it.
Around 18 years ago, my family were loading the taxi which was to take us to the airport to go on our jollies. I chose this moment to start packing, as you do. Under no small amount of shouty pressure from parents, I grabbed my walkman and a handful of tapes. Packing done.
In amongst the other crap that I was listening to back then, I had accidentally picked up a mystery compilation tape, mistakenly left in the house by my uncle. Turns out that it was My Iron Lung EP and a bunch of rarities and B-Sides. He never got that tape back.
I had one of those snazzy Walkmen that automatically switched sides so you didn’t have to change over, and for the next week, the only times I didn’t have that Radiohead tape on were when I was sleeping or refreshing the batteries.
Fast forward a few years, and listening to You Never Wash Up After Yourself on my minidisc player was the catalyst that brought me out of my first serious period of depression. Then again, when Thom and Jonny did a surprise show at the Park Stage at Glastonbury 2010, I was going through an even worse patch. The refrain ‘We are alive, everything all of the time’ had such an impact upon me that it still stays with me today.
Suffice to say, this band have impacted on my life like no other, and yet when this Manchester show was announced I didn’t buy tickets. We’d just seen them at Primavera, and I’ve never liked Manchester Arena. Thankfully, a friend who knew better bought us tickets anyway, as by the time I had realised I was being an idiot, the initial show had sold out.
Due to tragic recent events, the show was moved to LCC Old Trafford Cricket Ground. This venue was somewhere I had a more pleasant memory of, having seen an incredible show here from REM.
The thing about seeing your all time favourite band in a small venue is that generally people are on the same page as you. They fucking love it, even the bit when they play that twelve bars that was only released on an anonymous white label Betamax as a practical joke. See your all time favourite band at a festival and generally everyone is in a party spirit, is more or less inebriated or at least pleasantly disposed to their fellow man, and keen on having a boss time, fully aware that for the ticket price alone they could have done a week in Tenerife.
See them at a city centre venue with a 50,000 capacity on a Tuesday night and you’d better prepare yourself for a dash of frustration and disappointment.
Although the show wasn’t completely sold out, I’d estimate that there was a least a shit-ton of people there; possibly even a fuckload. Cricket pitches are generally very flat places, for obvious reasons. They are not the greatest of places to watch bands for anyone who is not lucky enough to be fairly near to the stage. We couldn’t see much of anything and the craning of necks etc was routinely interrupted by people who I grew to hate.
We got into the venue during Junun’s set. We moved around for a bit trying to get closer or in a better position, but soon decided that for the sake of everyone’s sanity we’d just stay in one spot and cross our fingers that the sound was good.
Luckily, the sound was good, and the set list was a mix of brilliant surprises and crowd pleasers. They opened with Let Down and Lucky. Stunning. It was around this time that around a third of the crowd decided they wanted to be at the front, and began to choose the ‘boring’ songs to shove their way forwards. All I Need, Everything In Its Right Place and No Surprises were all punctuated by some prick who felt that this was an ideal time to ram-raid their way past.
After around the 15th time someone barged into me from behind so they could move to a better position I started to really get quite upset. Here I was, trying to enjoy the rare experience of seeing an idol sing to me, and instead I could not help but get distracted and angry at a bunch of fucking spanners.
There was the girl who just walked straight into me, expecting me to lay my cloak on the ground for her to stagger drunkenly over, who became verbally abusive when I finally lost my temper and told her to go around me.
There was the woman who left after two songs, only to push her way back through the crowd at least an hour later grasping pints of overpriced shitty lager in her arms. Total cost estimate – £40ish for the beer, add on another £30 for wasted ticket money after spending a sizeable amount of the headline show queuing to buy aforementioned piss.
During one of the most sublime moments of the set, Daydreaming, instead of a transcendental moment, there was a giant dickhead. Literally. He was about 6’5” and elbowed his way into my back as I stood listening, eyes closed, with a beatific smile on my grid. He did a pretty good job of utterly ruining that moment, before laughing to his friends that I was ‘…putting up a fair bit of resistance.’ I lost my shit around then, and all 5’8” of me, and turned into a very angry Scouse person. He shut the fuck up for a while and got out his phone. After thrashing around like an epileptic giraffe during Paranoid Android (fine), I got another chill up my spine as Thom walked to the piano.
The opening few bars of Fake Plastic Trees returned me to a state into utter joy. Lurch dragged me back to reality again seconds later, sadly, complaining that ‘They could at least play the hits’ while he got his phone out again. Happily, I was distracted from the temptation of further physical or verbal assaults on his person by a dickhead behind me who sang the whole song, four inches from my ear, at the top of his voice. And what a voice. It could be bottled and sold as contraception, or possibly employed in Guantanamo bay-type scenarios.
I know I sound like some sort of elitist, music fascist prick, and I don’t care.
Anyone who loves a band enough to fuck off for half the set to queue up for £5.50 bottles of warm Heineken, who snapchats and talks their way through a show, who essentially makes a giddily excited fan’s dream into a dismal reality show scene straight out of Idiocracy can fucking do one.
I don’t care if it is Stravinski or Supergrass or The Sugababes. If you’re lucky enough to see that one thing that makes you feel perfect, even if it is only for the length of a single song, then you deserve people to respect that. Fortunately, many of the bands I love play very small venues, but in some instances, such as with Radiohead, that is a practical impossibility.
I wanted to write about the music. That is the job I should be doing here, but a review of any of the other Radiohead shows I have seen would be a very boring, gushing, frothing-at-the-mouth superfan pile of mush. So at least Slop readers can be grateful that a selection of the crowd at this particular show gave me something to write about.
The music was glorious. Particular highlights not already mentioned include Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Bloom, Lotus Flower and All I Need. Then, before the always hair-raising spectacle of thousands of people singing along to Karma Police, they went and played THE BENDS.
A handful of songs that I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see. For my money, one of the best bands ever. Just a shame that I couldn’t spend more time watching them and less time dealing with wankers.
Band – 9/10
Venue and sound – 7/10
Most of the crowd – 10/10
A small, but painfully significant part of the crowd – FUCK YOU
Photos by Sakura
- Paul Riley runs Sustainable Liverpool – you can check them out on Facebook by clicking here.