Concert Review: Thom Yorke (2019)

There’s something, I don’t know, almost phosphorescent about Thom Yorke, the iconic Radiohead frontman who brought his new solo tour right to the doorstep of a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd Sunday night.

That sense of light with the absence of flame is not something organic, that’s for sure. Yorke, sporting simple, dark clothing Sunday, his hair tied up for much of the set in its signature top-knot, was swarmed by machinery and its trappings at Stage AE on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, dancing to highly construction-conscious electronic beats and flooded with rays of saturating light. He stood in front of a giant screen, on which were projected countless abstract light scenarios and pattern-narratives. And there appeared to be at least three sound-men/engineers working boards in the wings.

Yorke didn’t seem to be uneasy in these surroundings and lent the cooler mechanics of the evening a kind of beleaguered soulfulness. Opening with a haunting track from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, he positively glowed as he treaded the stage, and spent more time unreeling that unearthly (and very human) caterwaul of his, sometimes stretching a syllable over several measures, than he did strumming a guitar. And, for the set, it worked and then some. He was aided, ably at times, by producer Nigel Godrich. Italian composer/percussionist Andrea Belfi opened the evening.

The headlining set – which Yorke punctuated with not one but two curtain-downing encores – was an eclectic mix of the British artist’s solo catalog, with tracks from his debut, The Eraser (I’m thinking mostly of a well-executed “Harrowdown Hill” and brilliantly funky takes on “Black Swan” and “The Clock”) sitting nicely alongside offerings from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and this year’s ANIMA LP. (Yes, he did play the beatific “Dawn Chorus,” for those keeping track and to the love of many.) Yorke even did two Atoms for Peace compositions and closed the night with a hot take from the Suspiria soundtrack.

The full set-list:

  1. Interference
  2. A Brain in a Bottle
  3. Impossible Knots
  4. Black Swan
  5. Harrowdown Hill
  6. Pink Section
  7. Nose Grows Some
  8. Cymbal Rush
  9. The Clock
  10. (Ladies & Gentlemen, Thank You for Coming)
  11. Has Ended
  12. Amok (Atoms for Peace)
  13. Not the News
  14. Truth Ray
  15. Traffic
  16. Twist

Encore:

  1. Dawn Chorus
  2. Runwayaway
  3. Default (Atoms for Peace)

Encore 2:

  1. Unmade

    – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Oct. 2, 2019
    Photos by Justin Vellucci, too.

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