Radiohead
The Astoria London Live (DVD)


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
January 26th, 2006 | 28 replies | 12,378 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


An oddity, this one - and not just for Thom Yorke's unsightly blonde mop and Colin Greenwood's fruity little ponytail.

See, this was filmed in March 1994, which, if you're familiar with Radiohead, will mean enough. They only had one album under their belt, and they were on the cusp of releasing The Bends, the album would seal their fate. Unseemly to think that Radiohead looked like being a one-hit wonder back then. But, The Bends was basically ready to go at this point - "Black Star" (minus the intro), "Bones", "The Bends", "My Iron Lung", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Just", and "Street Spirit" are all here. "Creep" is dispatched just 5 songs in, making the point of the exercise clear - Radiohead were road-testing these songs. 'This is another new one - sorry' is how Thom announces "Black Star". In fact, Bends-era tracks outnumber Pablo Honey-era tracks here. Even this early on, the band were trying to destroy their own past.

It's fascinating. Songs that would send people into raptures for the next decade are met with a vaguely interested silence. "Creep" - a song widely dismissed by both the band and quite a few of their fans later on, is performed with conviction as the crowd sings along with every word. But what's most shocking is the sheer distance between the songs from the two albums. "My Iron Lung" is so devastating here that the band used it as the take we can now hear on The Bends. Johhny Greenwood's beautiful lead guitar parts on "Fake Plastic Trees" elevate this version to something different - arguably, better - than the album version. By contrast, the section featuring "Prove Yourself", "Maquiladora", and "Vegetable" seems almost neutered. "Stop Whispering", too, shows their naivety - not only does the song never really go anywhere, but Thom Yorke takes it upon himself to sneer '*** you' into the microphone for no real reason. Not exactly something you can imagine him doing today. Quite what the audience must have thought when they heard a mindblowing rendition of "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", and then heard the awful single "Pop Is Dead" (probably Radiohead's worst song) right afterwards, is unimaginable.

The DVD illustrates, too, just what a great rock band Radiohead were. Thom Yorke is a gripping frontman; not the best by any means, but very good. His voice is as sparkling as ever, but you kind of expect that; it's his visual performance that impacts you here. Johnny Greenwood is even more visually brilliant, despite making almost no concession to the crowd - on the quieter tracks he seems lost in the music, and on the louder ones, he's on the verge of snapping either him or his guitar in half. He barely even faces the crowd most of the time. Colin Greenwood - 'our secret weapon' according to Thom Yorke - doesn't really do anything except stand next to the drum kit, but he's an essential part of these songs, and musically, his contributions are felt nearly as much as those of his brother. Few bassists are as undervalued. Phil Selway is often surprisingly impressive, too, notably on "Stop Whispering".

The camerawork and sound are good, but nothing spectacular; aside from once flirting with epilepsy-enducing quick cuts, what you get is a no-frills document of the concert, with no fancy effects or distractions, and very few crowd shots. If you've seen the video for "My Iron Lung", you'll basically already know what to expect - the footage is taken from this show.

No extras aside from song selection, which is a shame.

So; not something that's going to convince Radiohead haters that the band are actually any good (unless they've only heard their 21st century stuff and they just really hate electronic stuff), but nonetheless, a fairly vital viewing experience for the dedicated Radiohead fan. Casual fans? Depends how much you like The Bends, really. If you do, then go for it.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
January 26th 2006



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What a sucky 50th review.

Shadius
January 26th 2006



203 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'd probably give this a 3.5, basically for the band performing the songs really well. The camera stuff is pretty bland, as is the visual aspect; it's all pretty gloomy and not much changes. This sort of suits the music though, so it's alright.
I can't give this higher because the band have done so much better since this was recorded. If this was OKC era, then it would probably get a 4.5 or 5/5.

Reywas
January 26th 2006



148 Comments


I will give this review an A+ because it's your 50th. How awesome you mentioned it.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2006



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i dont see why they did not end sith Street Spirit. These guys have gotta be awesome live.

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Med57
Moderator
January 26th 2006



1001 Comments


Yeah, not your best but still very well written. Happy 50th review as well. I might try getting this at some stage...I've heard good things about it, and loads of live material from The Bends sounds great to me.

ktstein
January 26th 2006



438 Comments


I'm a huge Radiohead fan, and I've never heard of this. Do you know where I could find it?!

Iai
Emeritus
January 26th 2006



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I got it from HMV.
[quote=Room 101]These guys have gotta be awesome live.[/quote]
They are.

ocelot-05
January 26th 2006



807 Comments


It wasn't sucky, Iai. I think I've seen a clip of this actually, and I also remember being somewhat amused by Thom's hair.

I haven't seen them live, but I really want to.

Aakon_Keetreh
January 26th 2006



448 Comments


I have there first realease, but i think i will be buying this soon enough

Zebra
Moderator
January 27th 2006



2647 Comments


This sounds good, I'm not as big on Radiohead as most people so I probably won't bother.
The review seemed a bit brief, a little more info about the music would have been nice. I have to agree it was well written.

BringHomeTheBacon
January 27th 2006



248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is a really great performance but I wish Radiohead released a DVD from a show later in their career. The setlist is really lacking. I found it funny that the only time the audience was shown was during "Creep" because that was the only song most of them knew.This Message Edited On 01.27.06

Two-Headed Boy
January 27th 2006



4527 Comments


^^^I agree 100%. I have this dvd, and it's great, if not excellent. But there are some issues i have with the setlist.

Great review. Happy 50th!

Morvit
January 28th 2006



71 Comments


i was thinking of getting this...but since i was broke, i didnt, your review does convince me a little though. I'm sure I'll get this one day...

Bchop13
February 2nd 2006



68 Comments


This is sweet creep and street spirit are the best on here

Kage
February 5th 2006



1173 Comments


I'd really like to get this, but I don't know if I will. I thought the review was really good.

Spectrum
February 9th 2006



347 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is a very interesting look at Radiohead as the band-that-was... good review, and very true. It's unique to see a band so well-established and a band that's become known for certain albums before all of that, a band still struggling some to make it in the industry.

Though I have to say I am a fan of "Maquiladora" - in many ways it seems to really anticipate so much of what was to come from so many acts, though the main riff still sounds so much like The Violent Femmes. That threw me. I love Johnny's playing on "Maquiladora", it's multi-faceted, adpating for each part of the song. He was quite brilliant live on this DVD.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 3rd 2006



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Got this today, and I must say, so far very impressed.

The Jungler
June 3rd 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This a 4, but the Bends a 3.5??
[to be read in little jon voice] Whhhhhaat?

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 3rd 2006



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I dunno, The Bends drags in places, and I'm one of the few people who don't like Bones and My Iron Lung. The live versions make them much more interesting, but musically, I just don't like them

The Jungler
June 3rd 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

[to be read in little jon voice] okaaay



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