“Thanks for making us feel welcomed back in your city” – Thom Yorke, July 20, 2018
NIGHT 1: July 19 2018, Scotiabank Centre
The day had finally come. My wait for 9 straight years to see Radiohead was finally over. I woke up that morning and as I tried to do my research assignment work, I was very distracted. Thoughts about what songs they would play, anxieties about getting there on time without our children’s playset of a transit system (TTC) crapping out on me and retrospective thoughts about all the good times and bad times of my life that this band has provided the soundtrack to were swimming in my head. It was finally time to leave and I shut my laptop, drove to the subway and headed into the city to meet my older cousin for a much necessary pre-show burrito at Burrito Boyz. He’s considerably older than me and has seen Radiohead a number of times prior. However, he was equally as excited as I was because he had not seen them since they were last in Toronto in August of 2008 for the In Rainbows tour. He asked me between bites of a haddock burrito which songs I most wanted to hear. I responded with three of my favourites, Reckoner (one of my favourite songs of all time, period), Idioteque and The Tourist. Then we went to Elephant and Castle for a beer and headed to the newly renamed “Scotiabank Centre” for the show (unless I can now buy concert tickets with my Scotiabank SCENE points, for sure change it back to the Air Canada Centre. It has a good acronym and it’s timeless!)
They started with “Daydreaming” and “Ful Stop” off A Moon Shaped Pool and although I like that album enough, it’s not one of my favourites at all. However, when they played “Morning Bell” (which was definitely the faster paced Kid A version versus the slow, lounge singing version off Amnesiac and the I Might Be Wrong live album) I knew the show had really started for me. They played 25 songs, one after another as a pyramid spotlight cascaded on to the crowd and I imagined when this light was on that Radiohead was an iPod shuffling to the next random song of their discography.
It looked like this, more or less, even though this pic was taking on night 2 as they were playing “Daydreaming”
They played a very sombre setlist. Lots of amazing, slower songs such as “Like Spinning Plates”, “Everything in its Right Place” and “Videotape”. The most upbeat songs they played were probably “Idioteque” and “Myxomatosis”. If you’re following they played two out of my three favourite songs!
This was Radiohead’s first show since the tragedy of Downsview Park in 2012, where their stage collapsed and killed their drum technician, Scott Johnson. It felt like there was an awkwardness during their performance. An elephant in the room that needed to be addressed. They played a lot of songs off of In Rainbows and The King of Limbs. Which could mean that this was the possible setlist that we would have gotten if that Downsview Park show happened as planned. This could also be seen as a tribute to Johnson. The band at first seemed cold. They only time Thom Yorke seemed like he was having a really good time was when he was playing his favourite song of all time, ‘The Gloaming” and danced around in his squeaky clean, white Adidas shoes which looked to be Cloadfoam Ultimates (which I own and I can report that they are comfy to the point of feeling like you’re simply in a pair of thick socks, good for dancing confirmed).
They played amazing song after amazing song back to back but did not address the crowd more than a slight “thanks” or a “hey” from Yorke. Then for the final encore (“Everything in its Right Place”, “Idioteque” and “Karma Police”) Thom Yorke finally talked to the crowd directly. He said hello and then remarked that “The people who should be held accountable are not being held accountable … The silence is fucking deafening” regarding the complete failure of the Canadian judicial system to charge the parties responsible for the stage collapse. He then paused for a moment of silence for Scott Johnson. It was during this that thousands of us fell silent to show our respects as a couple dimwitted assholes started screaming shit out. Although the Toronto Star and various other news outlets erroneously reported that “the fans let Radiohead down”, this was the result of a few rotten individuals (that should be sentenced to a padded cell where they have to listen to “The Gloaming” on repeat) and not from the masses. When you have a room of 20,000, it only takes a few voices to break a silence and sound loud in comparison. So Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, if either of your authors were actually at the show they would have realized that we didn’t “blow it” or that the bulk of us did not “get loud at the worst time” and that most of us, both proud Torontonians and respectful Radiohead fans, don’t appreciate our media dragging our city through the mud. Radiohead went on to deliver a killer encore and I embraced fully being that asshole who screams the lyrics over the singer in my Instagram story. MOBILES SQUERKING, MOBILES CHIRPING. Sue me. If you want 4K mp3/mp4 render of live Radiohead, watch Live From The Basement, not my goofy social media feeds.
TOP 3 SONGS PLAYED: The Tourist, Idioteque, No Surprises
UNEXPECTED SONG: The Tourist (I couldn’t believe it. But also “Like Spinning Plates”)
NIGHT 2: July 20 2018 at Scotiabank Arena
Credit to u/Right_All_The_Time on Reddit
After such an amazing concert, I didn’t have tickets for the second night but I knew I had to see them again. Through a comedian buddy of mine, (shoutout to Jam Easy, who runs a comedy show in Brampton that you should check out if you live in the Toronto/GTA) I got in touch with a scalper and got section 108 (a stark upgrade from my 323 section last night but with a significant price hike that if my money was going directly to the band, I could have paid to have fixed Thom Yorke’s lazy eye three times over) and headed down with my girlfriend. What I witnessed was a completely different atmosphere from the band. They were so enthusiastic throughout the show and Thom Yorke regularly spoke to the crowd through their massive 25 song set that was STRAIGHT STELLAR TRACK AFTER STELLAR TRACK. I can’t even begin to start naming them off. Paranoid Android, Pyramid Song, You and Whose Army, How to Disappear Completely, Exit Music for A Film (forever stained with the image of the best Black Mirror episode of all time – “Shut Up and Drive”), 15 Step and There, There – just to name a few. They also played Reckoner and I was visibly trembling. It was good beyond words. In 25 songs, they only played THREE from the previous evening – “Daydreaming”, “Ful Stop” and “Bloom”. That’s 47 DIFFERENT songs in two nights and 5 hours of Radiohead overall. Boy, am I glad I went again.
So the question remains, what was responsible for Radiohead’s complete 180-degree change of mood that evening? While browsing the r/radiohead subreddit, user u/TIGER_COOL on Reddit had an interesting point: “They heard the buzz and read the papers and probably thought, “oh shit, this was supposed to be about Scott, and now somehow it’s about how shitty and inconsiderate Toronto fans are. Let’s make this right.” They love Toronto and they always have.” This is a cool thought and I wonder if there’s any validity to it. I think that they were better able to gauge the sheer silence in that room and felt the love and respect of the fans more than we were given credit for. Night 1 felt like Radiohead getting something off their chest and trying to ascertain a bit of closure with Night 2 feeling like a renewal once this was complete. Hopefully, the path of the legal matter is not over yet and everything could have a chance to be in its “right place” after six years of a tragedy unanswered in the near future. After an amazing encore of “Fake Plastic Trees”, Thom Yorke bowed to the crowd as we clapped and cheered relentlessly.
Picture courtesy of u/instadru on Reddit
Two nights of Radiohead after such a long wait was the greatest experience of my life until I have a kid or whatever, with night 2 delivering more for me personally than night 1
TOP 3 SONGS PLAYED: Reckoner, Pyramid Song, Fake Plastic Trees
UNEXPECTED SONG: Talk Show Host (ahhhhhh)