radiohead [2012]

HP Pavilion
San Jose, CA
11 April 2012

It’s not often you wait a decade for something. Or 11 years. For 11 years, I embraced, then wavered, then eventually dismissed opportunity after opportunity to see Radiohead live. I loved their music. I heard again and again that they were amazing live. But it always came down to three things: huge horrible venues, masses of people and jacked up ticket prices. Each and every time, I ultimately said no.

I finally had enough.

So I sucked it up, shelled out the ridiculous amounts of money and set out for the massive hockey arena swarming with humanity.

It was just as I had feared.

Perhaps I was simply a victim of my own naivete. Perhaps I simply did not have realistic expectations for what I could get from a huge venue. What I got was a nose bleed and a bird’s-eye view of undulating masses. Perhaps I doomed myself to failure because I simply cannot enjoy a giant venue show.

I sat above the stage and to the right. I looked down on Thom Yorke and his nascent pony tail (yikes, by the way). Yes, I could see the pony tail, but really only via the arty, constantly-moving video monitors hovering above the stage (side note: when exactly did Yorke turn into a neo-electric hippie, dancing and prancing around the stage like some sort of coked-up sprite?). I felt so far removed from everything and everyone throughout the night, and could not understand how such a venue could possibly allow for any kind of meaningful connection between fan, musician and music.

Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all bad. There were moments of beauty that managed to bridge the chasm between stage and seat. “Karma Police” was one big sing-along, and yes, there is something truly amazing about thousands of people singing (surpringly well and in key) together in near-perfect unison. “Little By Little” (from The King of Limbs) was fantastic. “Reckoner” (from In Rainbows) was gorgeous and haunting.

I was told to not worry. I was told that Radiohead was the perfect band to destroy my giant venue bias. They put on an amazing show, I was told. You will not be disappointed. And so I must blame myself. It must not be possible for me to enjoy anyone in such a venue. Now I know. And so I will simply wait for that secret, rumored (by me just now) Radiohead Great American or Bimbo’s show. Now that would be amazing…