Radiohead split crowd with emphatic headline set

Leeds Festival 2009 review

published: Thu 3rd Sep 2009

Radiohead

Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August 2009
Bramham Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS23 6ND, England MAP
weekend £175 - SOLD OUT, £70 a day for Friday, or Saturday only
daily capacity: 55000
last updated: Thu 20th Aug 2009

For a man with a well worn reputation for miserabilism, Thom Yorke proved to be in a particularly chipper mood for Radiohead's highly anticipated headline slot tonight. Introducing the band as "the old blokes that play last" prior to opening with '15 Step', it came as something of a surprise, but it was not the last we would see of Yorke's lighter side, with odd moments of humour popping up throughout their impeccable two-hour, twenty-three song set.

Radiohead
Having heard the band's soundcheck drifting across the campsite as I woke earlier today, the beautiful 'All I Need' came as no surprise, but having the opportunity to hear it twice in one day (albeit once at distance) came as a rare treat, and as Yorke's delicate vocals soared during the nihilist's love song, it was impossible not to get swept away on it all. This early highlight of the set was followed by the equally glorious 'Lucky'. It could not have been a better choice, with the standout track from 'OK Computer' receiving the first singalong of the set whilst rousing sections of the crowd seemingly only there on the off chance of 'that song' being played.

By the time blues-noir of 'Nude' came round, certain sections of the crowd were visibly thinning, the realisation obviously dawning that Radiohead were not in the mood to play on past glories. As people slipped away, the mood and the atmosphere lifted considerably, and the opening piano lines of 'Weird Fishes / Arpeggi' were carried on an almost euphoric wave of support, and at the halfway point of '2+2=5' Radiohead's performance metamorphorsised from their usual level of excellence, to a level of pure, sublime beauty which will, most likely, never be surpassed on this stage.

Radiohead
With the dual sensual assaults of 'The Gloaming' and 'Reckoner' came the first indication that the end of this stunning set was nearing, but not before the glitchy, electro monster of 'Idioteque' brought the whole thing crashing down. As the lights dimmed, it felt like there was unfinished business, but no-one was quite sure whether the encore would be forthcoming. Thankfully, Yorke and co. returned to the stage with a follow-up which would better most full sets on the bill this weekend.

'You and Whose Army' opened the encore, with much publicised new track 'These Are My Twisted Words' following. The latter's ominous overtones, along with the steadily dropping temperatures, chilled the masses before Radiohead dived headlong into a four song assault of a finale made up of the mesmerising 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place', spectacular takes on OK Computer and The Bends favourites 'Paranoid Android' and 'Just' and a haunting rendition of 'Everything In Its Right Place' during which Thom Yorke played a piano draped with a Tibetan flag. The message could not have been clearer.

Radiohead will always have their detractors, and tonight was no different, with calls of "play something we know" proving that you can indeed take a horse to water, but you can't make him appreciate mind-blowing talent if it is any way challenging. Had the guilty parties indulged in less heckling and more listening, they may have realised that this was the pure, unadulterated essence of a band at the very top of their game, and a lesson in craftsmanship to the young pretenders from the previous evening.

Radiohead
review by: Tommy Jackson

photos by: Luke Seagrave

Friday 28th to Sunday 30th August 2009
Bramham Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS23 6ND, England MAP
weekend £175 - SOLD OUT, £70 a day for Friday, or Saturday only
daily capacity: 55000
last updated: Thu 20th Aug 2009


latest on this festival

Leeds Festival 2021
festival details
last updated: Yesterday, 08:35am
Leeds Festival 2021
line-ups & rumours
last updated: Fri 25th Sep 2020
Leeds Festival
festival home page
last updated: Thu 17th Sep 2020
Leeds Festival - CANCELLED 2020
festival details
last updated: Wed 13th May 2020