Thom Yorke @ Place Bell – 26th September 2019

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Thom Yorke at Place Bell

There’s a bright white vertical beam of light on the massive stage screen that appears prior to Thom Yorke and his band arriving on stage.  For something so simple, it feels weirdly eerie.  As Thom wraps up delicate set opener Interference, the beam widens and widens as if opening the door to a portal to another world – Thom’s world.  And away we go, transported for the evening.

Things start off at breakneck speed in the form of A Brain In A Bottle; blazing white discs of light float around the stage like searchlights, while Thom hammers away at a guitar distorted to within an inch of its life, busting out jerky dance moves intermittently.  The song runs seamlessly into the almost jungle beats of Impossible Knots, and Thom ditches his instruments altogether to roam the stage like the bona fide frontman he is.  An enormous bright meteor in the process of burning up adorns the huge screen at this point…at least, that’s what I see.  That’s one of the immediate things you start to notice about the projections tonight – they are almost all interpretive, up to you to decipher.  You remain engaged throughout, trying to figure out the sights and the sounds in parallel – its mesmerising stuff.

After the stuttery beats of Black Swan, Thom greets the assembly with a simple “merci tout le monde, ça va?!” before heading into the glorious Harrowdown Hill, with its bleak black-on-blue lightning appropriate to the bleak subject matter of the suicide of British weapons expert David Kelly, and who bears responsibility.  The screen shapes are connected to keys and guitar and so pulse in perfect time to the beats, and therefore get more frantic as the song builds to a huge crescendo, before slowing down to a soft, repetitive beat, and merging into Pink Section.

Things look almost Kraftwerk on Runwayaway as the three keyboard stands illuminate in a line, though the sound is immeasurably more industrial before The Clock manages to combine dub beats with guttural native chants, and a back screen that gets so bright the eyes start to sting!  New song Traffic sounds massive, as Thom throws vocals into a box that subsequently loops them over and over as he roams the stage once more and busts out a few more trademark jerky dance moves.  After the stage backdrop appears to explode, the song merges into Twist to conclude the main set, as strobe lights blare and then fade away to a simple piano, giving the feeling that we have reached our destination after this epic journey.  The screen goes bright pink, and Thom and co. leave the stage to a standing ovation.

The encore begins with Thom wandering onstage alone for the fragile Dawn Chorus before his 2 bandmates sneak out later to add ambient effects before Kraftwerk stances are assumed once more on The Axe.  The song Atoms For Peace is followed by the stunning Default (from Thom’s Atoms For Peace project) to close out the encore with jerky lights and strobes at the verses which instantly stabilize to a steady glow at the chorus to surreal effect. 

As people start to head out the exits, the house lights stay off, suggesting things are not over just yet, and sure enough, Thom soon wanders back out in total darkness to his piano.  Illuminated by a single dim green light, he runs through a spooky Unmade (with the rest of the band hiding in the dark throughout), before wrapping up the 2-hour show with a simple “goodnight everybody, thank you for coming.”  Incredible visuals, immersive sounds – a truly phenomenal spectacle for all the senses!

Setlist 

  • 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.       Runwayaway
  • 9.       The Clock
  • 10.   (Ladies & Gentlemen, Thank You for Coming)
  • 11.   Amok (Atoms for Peace song)
  • 12.   Has Ended
  • 13.   Not the News
  • 14.   Truth Ray
  • 15.   Traffic
  • 16.   Twist

Encore 1

  • 17.   Dawn Chorus
  • 18.   The Axe
  • 19.   Atoms for Peace
  • 20.   Default (Atoms for Peace song)
  • Encore 2
  • 21.   Unmade

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ramy Elhoufy

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