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Radiohead @ Parc Jean-Drapeau - August 6th

Posted by Sarah / August 8, 2008

RadioheadAs most of you probably know by now, last Wednesday one of the biggest bands on the planet for the last 10+ years were playing at Parc Jean-Drapeau. The show was definitely the biggest one I've ever attended. A total of 35,000 people attended the show, which ended up selling out at the door: an impressive statement for the huge outdoor venue. It was muddy and moist, but thankfully it wasn't as rainy as the forecast was calling for.

By now I've had a chance to read around a bit to see what the other medias are saying about the show, and from what I've read, La Presse gave it a complete rave which I feel is a bit excessive but extremely well written and not entirely off the track. The Gazette basically gave you a pretty good idea of what the set-list was but not much more. I'll give you a roundup of how I experienced the biggest event I've ever attended.

Radiohead2I've been listening to Radiohead since Pablo Honey (1993) and in all the bands I've been listening to in my life, this band is the longest and most steady run on my stereo. I don't listen to them all the time, but I never really stopped liking them after a while, which isn't the case for many bands. They're classic. Though some of their songs give me a way-back flashback, they age well and still sound amazing to this day. There's something to be said for a band that created something great 15 years ago and still manage to put out fantastic albums and shows to this day. In the last 20 year, I think only Madonna has been able to equal the notorious band's success and iconic status. But even album after album, I think Madonna had focussed more on renewing herself over and over, while Radiohead has been on a steady incline in evolution, remaining withing their own realm of style yet still managing to sound fresh album after album.

That being said, I'm probably not the only one who felt that if there's one show you had to go to, even if you never-ever go to live shows, this was it. I ran into some friends who drove an insane amount of hours in a short few days just to drive up and down to Montreal for this.

My number one complaint about this show was that there was simply too much people. On the bright side, we didn't suffocate from being enclosed indoors with that much people. The occasional breeze was a relief. I got shoved and kicked while trying to move an inch to get away from the girls who were singing loudly and off-key in my ears (sorry, I went to hear Thom, not y'all) and elbowing me constantly. To give you an idea, if you were at Osheaga last weekend, the lineup to enter the site went from the bridge to the MEG stage and back up. I'd be willing to guess close to a kilometer at the very least. Actually, the lineup and crowding began at Berri-Uqam Metro where one had to be patient and wait a while, sardine-style, in the never-ending corridors. I feel bad for the people who were actually going to Longueuil after a long day's work, trying to get home in that madness. Moving through the crowd was an enterprise in itself. The real insanity was after the show though. And I will say that I was impressed at how patient and contained the people were after all this was over.

CrowdNow that I got that one off my chest, the show was extremely well-done. The decor was made up of pretty cathedralesque LED sticks that hung from the stage top and lit up in a variety of different ways, as well as a bunch of screens that gave people really great and aesthetically fantastic close-ups on all the members. I think I can speak for all of us 35,000 people when I say that the height of this screen action came when Thom gave us intimate stares through the tiny camera on his microphone while he was singing You and Whose Army.

His voice was steadily perfect throughout the entire two hours of the show; as far as live performances go, the quality often varies and can easily disappoint, which wasn't the case here. The musicians played flawlessly and with great energy as well. I was a bit worried about how this would sound outdoors, especially after having attended Osheaga where, despite their best efforts to control the sound, I realized that shows in wide open spaces greatly affects the sound quality. However, I can honestly say that Wednesday night, the sound was fantastic. The bass didn't vibrate unpleasantly from too much amplification, and all instruments could be heard clearly and in perfect balance.

They played songs from every album except Pablo Honey, so there was something to please every type of fan there. It must be said that their repertoire is pretty impressive, and the amount of hits they have had over the years is more than a few. They played most hits that people wanted to hear: the masses were pleased and thrilled by what they heard, and so was I.

Radiohead 4Personally, when it comes to their records, I have a tendency to like the more electronic stuff a bit less than the rest. However, live it was the complete opposite for me. I felt that they were a bit freer with this type of stuff and experimented a bit more, which is just to say that they drew outside of the lines with it. To me, this is the ultimate enjoyment of seeing a band I love play live. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more of that. The rest sounded flawless, but maybe a bit too flawless for my personal taste. I was hoping for a bit more craziness and insanity on their behalf in terms of hearing actual performance that falls outside of the albums' shell. I wasn't surprised by any of it and was secretly hoping that they would blow my mind with genius live additions and unexpected flares. But I'm a dreamer, and I can't be too disappointed when life doesn't quite live up to my own bubble. For a great musical performance, it was one for sure, which makes it hard to say anything objectively bad about it.

The few songs that featured some of their jazzed up electronic endeavors was where I was seriously thrilled by the show. Where the classic, album-resembling stuff was interesting though was where I noticed the way they actually went about making the strange sounds that seem pulled out of a fantastic impossible musical realm. At the beginning of Lucky for example, I saw the guitar player messing around with the tuning part of the strings to create the eerie atmosphere. The backup vocals were also "particulièrement réussies". In a way, it is impressive to see record-like quality being interpreted in a live environment, and I realize that this is what many people reach and hope for when they go see their favorite band play a live show. So they delivered something great for all Radiohead lovers who were there, and that I felicitate.

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