FEELS LIKE STREET SPIRIT
Entertaiment Centre, February
By Bernard Zuel
IT GRABS you; it holds
you close; its heartbeat is your heatbeat. Separating the physical and
cerebral of our response to Radiohead is not only unwise, it is not possible.
In recent years we have
seen two shows which grew responses more grounded in emotional wellsprings
than mechanics of guitar sounds, vocal tecniques or even songcraft - the
first Sydney shows of Jeff Buckley and Ben Harper. Radiohead stand in that
company, and may in fact outstrip it.
While Buckley and Harper
gave out, pushed out washes of energy and emotion, filling you up with
their searching or spirituality, Radiohead suck it out, pull it towards
them. However, they are both the catalyst and the catharsis.
It brings to mind Joy Division,
who similarly acted as a catharsis. They were a receptable for anger, loneliness,
desperation. Fans invested them with the ability to, if not answer, then
at least to listen, accept that anger. The difference with Radiohead may
be that there isn't really room for anger here, for aggression of any sort.
Nor is it the now obligatory angst of the tortured teenager. As with the
basslines of Colin Greenwood, it's more primal but also more refined than
Exit Music and Let Down were
drenched in feeling, almost crushing in their piling of layers of sadness,
expectation, hope, wistfulness and yearning. It was too much; how could
we be expected to keep this in? What could we do, cry? Yell? Some tried
to stand, to shake themselves free - to be ready for the next emotional
load - but of course in this most fascist of venues standing is right out.
Others in the mosh-free moshpit responded by barely moving, held there
The escape came in the expulsions
of air, the lashing of guitars accompanying the peaks of My Iron Lung or
the elongated Paranoid Android. The climax of the first "movement" of Paranoid
Android began to release the tourniquet, but it was only an easing, a chance
to breathe in quickly before the pressure returned. It was held in, pressing
against the seams until the third, hard-driving movement flung open the
gates. Let it out.
And at the end there was
stillness. Not a low, not a falling back, just stillness. The turbulence
had subsided but there was no rush to leave, no urge to speak. In fact
there was little to say, or little ability to articulate it yet. As singer
Thom Yorke put it elsewhere: "No alarms and no surprises ... silence."