Review by Glenn Raybone with photography by Wayne Fox.

This is one of the most difficult reviews I can recall being asked to do. People fall into two camps, they either love and adore Radiohead, in which case very few words are needed to tell them how great they were last night (they were likely already there), or the other side are those who don’t “get” the band, they fail to see how visionary they are, pushing boundaries, making you think, not giving you what you expect, and for these people, I have no chance at all to convince them of the greatness of Radiohead in the few words I have.

Radiohead - 14 of 14

To give some background in 1993 Radiohead were playing to a couple of hundred folks a night, and within four years released the seminal album ‘OK Computer’ and headlined Glastonbury the same year. It was a career peak at that time, but it was what they did next which set them apart from almost every other band and musicians around. It’s fitting that twenty years on they have released ‘OKNOTOK’ to celebrate the anniversary of what many media and journalists would say is one of the most important albums of the last 100 years, and that again they have just headlined Glastonbury.

Radiohead - 13 of 14

Radiohead - 12 of 14

At the same time they have also toured to promote the recent new studio album, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and whilst it was a tour, dates were scant, the UK getting just two indoor shows at the Manchester Arena. Then there was the hideous terrorist attack there, at a concert mainly attended by children, following which concerts took on a different feel, with increased security and police presence as you’d expect. The Arena remains closed and whilst most artists who were booked in have merely missed the area, Radiohead are different, and quickly arranged a gig on the same date as the planned first night, but this time open air at the Old Trafford cricket ground. It was a moment of genius.

We arrived at the venue to a large queue, but some would say by luck, we get picked out for a random search, and with pockets emptied, we are scanned. With the all clear we are allowed straight in bypassing what would’ve been another hour’s wait.

Radiohead - 11 of 14

As usual at such events, food is not extensive but expensive and a pint of beer is eye-watering at £5.50. Soft drinks are also obscenely priced and trying to get a decent coffee is like asking for one of the band’s guitars to take home. Support it has to be said is uninspiring, and opening is Oliver Coates, who plays a cello or is it a double bass? It’s hard to see from the distance we are from the stage, but the sound is awful, and the thirty minutes passes in what seems to be a continuous monotone.

Next are Junun, who are a side-project of Jonny Greenwood’s with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express . They play Indian-influenced music with the most fabulous drum based rhythms backed with a kind of Tijuana brass, added to some wonderful bass and guitar. I have to say thirty minutes wasn’t long enough and they made a good overall impression on the ever increasing crowd. A self-titled album was released in 2015.

Radiohead were due on-stage at eight, and were on time, which meant a large number missed the opening songs, in fact there was still a steady stream coming through the gates at half past eight, but advance notice had been given to allow extra time due to increased security.

Throughout previous dates, they have opened with ‘Day Dreaming’ but tonight, as a twist it’s ‘Let Down’, and this is just the start of a night of surprises. The sound is perfect, and on ‘Pyramid Song’ Yorke’s vocal caress and soothe, and it’s the first phone-cameras in the air moment. “You made it then” from the man of few words.
‘You and Whose Army’, with it’s hypnotic, melancholy ramble, wafts out, with the close up camera on Yorke’s eye, peering out over the large backscreens, adding to the drama, and then ‘Everything in its Right Place’ completely contrasting with pixelated graphics, numbing the vision while your ears are caressed.

Radiohead - 10 of 14

Radiohead - 9 of 14

After nearly ninety minutes, we’ve had an aural delight, and yet only one significant, would you say “hit” has been played, such is their catalogue and calibre. The audience is all ages from toddlers to pensioners and an eclectic mix, cementing the appeal of Radiohead and they generally all come as one to cheer the poignant lyric during ‘No Surprises’ “..drag down the government, they don’t speak for us”.

Radiohead - 2 of 14

Radiohead - 1 of 14

It is at this time, with fading natural light, with the occasional rain from the grey Manchester sky that the gig is taken up a gear, with an encore which of simple beauty, ‘Daydreaming’, ‘Nude’, ‘Lotus Flower’, ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, these five mesmeric songs, which most musicians would give their eye teeth for in any career, but of course we are not done just yet, and a second encore sees the song ‘I Promise’ a beautiful simple melody that was actually rejected from the final release of the OK Computer album. There is a mass expectation of ‘Creep’ but that expectation is crushed, as ‘Creep’ is not played, instead Yorke says “we might need some help with this one in case I forget the words”, ‘The Bends’ takes everyone by surprise, it is indeed a special song for a special evening. There is no mention of the atrocity that befell this city a few weeks ago but Yorke simply says “Thank you Manchester, God bless this city”. To close the set ‘Karma Police’, with the crowd taking over on the chorus “for a minute I lost myself”, this echoing around the ground and into the streets long after the band have left the stage. It really was a moment you had to experience.

Radiohead - 7 of 14

Radiohead - 8 of 14

So was it all good? Well apart from the over-priced food and drink, the only other criticism is that the tickets were also a lot of money, coming in at £70 which is a lot in today’s austerity Britain, more so when you look at what could be described as a very poor support bill. But this was a hastily arranged gig, the tour shirts still list the two Arena dates on them, and we should, I suppose, be grateful this was arranged and Radiohead didn’t go down the route of most others and simply miss Manchester out. However this is not your average band, they are visionary, revolutionary and simply put there is nothing or no-one like them. You can’t second-guess them, you think you’ve an idea of the set they will play, looking online at previous gigs, and then they completely change it all around, and drop a song (‘Creep’) which everyone was expecting but fill the void with an even bigger song (‘The Bends’).

Radiohead - 6 of 14

Radiohead - 4 of 14

For the thirty odd thousand there it was one of those nights you had to be at and will be talked about for time to come. For those who were there the above will not do justice to the night, I know that, please don’t hold it against me. For those who still don’t get the band, you really are missing out. Sgt. Pepper is often cited as the greatest album of all time, but for a later generation ‘OK Computer’ could take this honour. It truly is a masterpiece, Radiohead we salute you.

Let Down
Ful stop
15 step
All I Need
Pyramid Song
Everything in its Right Place
No Surprises
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
You and Whose Army?

Lotus Flower
Paranoid Android
Fake Plastic Trees

There There
I Promise
The Bends
Karma Police

One Response to “Radiohead + Oliver Coates + Junun @ Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester- 4th July 2017”

  1. Sal Says:

    Never experienced such a security shambles. The queue jumping, lack of entrances and staff. We allowed an additional hour for security on top of the usual and still didn’t get in the ground until 8.30 and could not get near our allocated seats as security had given up and were letting everyone through.
    A joke, but hospitality and the management team above were alright!

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