Monday, September 01, 2003

Review: Radiohead @ White River Amphitheatre, Sun 31 Aug 2003

Saw the Radiohead show at White River Amphitheatre (in Auburn, WA) last night, with the sibs. Radiohead's the World's Greatest Rock Band, and their live show's always been incredible in the past. Therefore I report with some regret that the show in Auburn was less spectacular than I had hoped.

I don't know if it's because White River Amphitheatre's new, and they're still working out the kinks in the sound system, but the sound was kind of muddy for the first half of the set, and the speakers didn't have quite enough muscle to really punch through with full force to the mezzanine, where we were sitting. You could hear the music, but you couldn't feel it in your gut. The first handful of songs --- including "There There" and "Where I End and You Begin", both personal favorites from the new album --- sounded small and confined, when they should have soared. The show didn't really hit its rhythm until "Backdrifts", about five songs into the set. The later, more acoustic pieces ("Exit Music", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Follow Me Around") sounded much crisper, which made me wonder if the WRA simply wasn't designed to host rock and roll, or anything else with a really visceral bass presence.

To be fair, Thom's voice did sound a bit tired at the beginning of the set, so it may not have been the venue alone. This was the last show on this leg of their North American tour; Thom noted that, after this show, they were going to take three weeks off to see their families. It's too bad I won't be on the East Coast to see them when they get back --- I expect their New York area shows to be stellar.

Final note: this was the only Radiohead concert I've ever attended that had empty seats. And not just isolated ones here and there --- large blocks of seats simply went unfilled. Half the row in front of us was empty. What gives? Did people have trouble finding the venue? Did ticket agencies buy up large chunks of tickets (which, incidentally, were exorbitantly priced to begin with --- with Ticketmaster fees, almost $56 a pop) and fail to sell them at the usual inflated premiums? Or do people in the Pacific Northwest simply have bad taste in music?

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