British rock band Radiohead, creators of the landmark 1997 album “OK Computer,” played to a sold-out crowd Saturday night at KeyArena.
Radiohead’s set at KeyArena on Saturday night was expansive and probably a bit excessive. In a little less than 2 ½ hours, the British rock band played 25 songs, and the sellout crowd immediately submitted to its immaculate, tasteful, thoroughly modern rock.
The band played as a six-piece, with its original lineup plus an additional touring drummer. The music’s many nuances occasionally got lost, especially on loud, straightforward rockers like “Bodysnatchers” and “Burn the Witch.” Even the most celebrated artists are no match for KeyArena’s mausoleumlike acoustics.
The songs that translated best were subtle and intricate, weaving the overlapping drums from the dual kits with layers of synthesizer and percussion. “Reckoner,” one of several selections from 2007 album “In Rainbows,” found nearly the whole band contributing to the groove as Thom Yorke’s ageless falsetto glided over the top. The dancey “Idioteque” was another standout, featuring a rapturous synth-and-drum breakdown. “Morning Bell” coasted on Philip Selway’s clean, powerful drumming.
Yorke is a laconic frontman, mostly limiting his interaction with the audience to “thank you’s” and acknowledgments of the city he’s in. The one exception came after several false starts marred chilly electronic track “The Gloaming,” and he engaged in some light self-deprecation: “I’m a [expletive] professional,” he said.
Given the dystopian streak in Radiohead’s music, it was fair to wonder if Yorke would comment on current politics. He didn’t, but the music did the work for him. The band briefly paused encore opener “No Surprises” as the crowd cheered the line “Bring down the government / They don’t speak for us.”
For all its deserved accolades as musical innovators, Radiohead in concert is surprisingly conventional. The band played its songs more or less straight, with lengthy pauses between them as a small army of techs ferried guitars and gear on and off the stage. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood was the main beneficiary, switching between his main instrument, piano, glockenspiel, modular synth and a half dozen other instruments.
The band’s final two songs showed its range. “Everything in Its Right Place” was all synthesizer wash and propulsive kick drum. As it died down, Greenwood looped Yorke’s voice and mangled it with effects pedals, and the band walked offstage.
They quickly returned to play “Fake Plastic Trees,” a fan favorite from 1995’s “The Bends.” It’s as close as Radiohead gets to an arena-filling, crowd-pleasing power ballad, and it marked a fitting conclusion to a show that gave fans more than they needed.