There’s a scene in Radiohead’s 1999 tour documentary, Meeting People Is Easy, where some journalist asks Thom Yorke about his band not performing at the Grammys. “They said we weren’t good for the ratings,” Yorke says, brightening up for perhaps the only moment in the film. “It’s cool. We were so happy, man!” An EKG beeps away over a high-pitched drone, cut with gray shots of airports.
After 13 years, Radiohead might have finally gotten what it wished for. The group is not so popular anymore. Lawn tickets for the Chicago(ish) gig were still available as of this writing. The King of Limbs, the Brits’ 2011 LP, was the first Radiohead album to not be received as if it had been delivered from Alpha Centauri by Jesus in a flying diamond Jaguar.
Yet you’ve never seen the fortysomethings smile so much. The group, now expanded onstage to include a second drummer, Clive Deamer, wiggles and grooves. Rather than twitch and violently shake his wrists, Yorke shimmies his hips like a belly dancer. The recent music from 2007 and onward, which makes up the bulk of this tour’s set list, is unabashedly sexier, with lyrics centered on love and nature, not post-millennial dread. Bah to the haters. Limbs is the band at its most gorgeous and organic, if a little crunchy—at its most complicated and most simple.
So Radiohead is becoming a jam band. No wonder critics are afraid to praise it. Hipsters dig vague, angsty shit. Tunes about the pleasures of swimming with turtles and dragonflies? Not so much. But lighten up. Radiohead did.