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.