Radiohead, Victoria Park, London

Victoria Park, London

The last time Radiohead set up shop in Victoria Park and prayed for good weather was back in 2000. Then, they were just weeks away from releasing Kid A, the album that saw them cast aside their position as Britain's greatest rock band in favour of willful and inconsistent experimentation.

Now, however, the band are stuck between their trail-blazing present and an inconvenient reminder of past glories. In Rainbows, released last October, is their most accessible record since the seminal OK Computer, but it's a Best Of package that's nestling in the upper echelons of the album charts.

In Rainbows represents the backbone of their set for this huge show. Kicking off with 15 Steps, they dive into the warmth and tenderness of Nude, which quickly bleeds into the aggressive antagonism of Bodysnatchers. It seems the emotion that the album rejoices in has had a marked effect on Thom Yorke. "I love you too, darling," he tells one vocal fan, before leading fans in a chant of "Free Tibet," and adopting a comedy cockney accent in his intro to "bitchin' number" Bangers and Mash.

But while Yorke's barriers may be down tonight, Radiohead have never felt so distant. The sound is perfect, and each layer of their intricately crafted songs shimmers. But the setlist doesn't fit the vastness of this gig. Videotape, which sees Yorke swapping from guitar to piano, How to Disappear Completely, and Climbing Up the Walls are songs to have a one-to-one relationship with, not to be shared with 20,000 strangers.

When Just, from breakthrough album The Bends, comes along, people react to it with the fevered desperation of a dog that's been locked in a kennel for a week, howling, jumping and dancing with glee. Kid A's The National Anthem enlivens the downbeat mood, its spooky synths and club beats working in tandem with a dazzling lightshow.

Yorke jolts and shakes violently, feeling his way through the truculent sound of The Gloaming, every inch the unquiet spirit his voice suggests. Colin Greenwood's nonchalant bass grinds next to his brother's vengeful guitar in the superb There There. But Jonny Greenwood is a still, bashful presence as he weaves delicate acoustic guitar through the translucent longing of All I Need, his chest turned away from the crowd and into Yorke's shoulder.

Pyramid Song and Planet Telex at last give the crowd a chance to sing. Yorke encourages them to join in, claiming that he always forgets the words, but following a sublime rendition of The Tourist, Radiohead disappear, as belligerent but beautiful as ever.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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