Radiohead
Madison Square Garden; New York, NY

There I was: Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Some of New York’s finest have played in the Garden, and as I looked to the banners hung in the rafters, I could almost feel their presence. Mark Messier. Willis Reed. Mike Richter. Walt Frazier. “The Baker’s Dozen,” Phish’s summer 2017 run of 13 consecutive sold-out shows. So many iconic moments. You know, they say if you listen closely enough, you can almost hear the crowds of a bygone era chanting “DE-FENSE” as Trey Anastasio nails the solo on “Bathtub Gin.” Anyway, there I was: Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” for the first of Radiohead’s four nights of sold-out shows.

At this point in their career, we can probably safely refer to Radiohead as legends without drawing too many weird looks from the guy in the Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Selling out four consecutive nights in the same arena when your most recent album came out over two years ago? Only legends can do that! Billy Joel, Elton John, apparently Phish… Put Radiohead in there. They have nothing left to prove, yet can sell out shows instantly, simply by virtue of being Radiohead.

Despite this, however, the band continues to just bring it live. This was my third time seeing Radiohead perform, and it wowed me all the same.

I had seats up in the semi-nosebleeds, so I was a little worried it wouldn’t be as enjoyable a show as compared to, say, seeing them while standing in GA. But aside from being too far away to initially distinguish between Phil Selway and Clive Deamer’s respective shiny bald heads, any fears were gone by about two minutes into set opener “Daydreaming.” Beams of white light shot out from the stage, and for the next two hours, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Plus, from my vantage point, I had a clear view of all of Thom Yorke’s best dance moves during songs like “Myxomatosis” and of Ed O’Brien’s masterful shaker work. No one plays a shaker in time with a song quite like Ed O’Brien.

What impressed me most was how they could go out there and play familiar songs everyone in the arena has heard upwards of hundreds of times, yet still make them feel fresh and exciting. “Lotus Flower” became an absolute shredder of distorted guitars and drum fills. “Kid A” felt like an actual song played by humans, rather than a robot recounting their nightmares as it does on its namesake record. The entire crowd got into a frenzy over singing one line in a 21-year old song, because it’s arguably never resonated more. (The song was “No Surprises” — I’m sure you can guess the line.) And “Paranoid Android,” my god. Hey, look at that: the numbers are in, and yes I can confirm that “Paranoid Android” is the greatest rock song ever made. (It goes (1) “Paranoid Android,” (2) “Marquee Moon” by Television, (3) “Cleveland Rocks,” as used as the theme song for The Drew Carey Show.) Just a monumental song to experience live.

Now, I’m something of a sport-o. I’ve seen my share of sporting events at MSG. I’ve witnessed the peak of Linsanity, seen Carmelo Anthony score 62 points (that’s a lot,) and have personally kept the legacy of NHL journeyman Bruce Driver alive by remembering that time I saw him score a game-winning goal against Anaheim. Hell, I’ve even been to an arena football game at MSG to see the then terrible, now long defunct New York CityHawks! Wow, they were so bad… What I’m trying to get at is, I know the kind of moments that make Madison Square Garden great, that make it come alive. I’ve experienced them firsthand. So believe me when I say that this Radiohead show was up there with some of the greatest performances the Garden has seen, at least in recent memory. The Knicks can barely win 30 games in a season. Radiohead closed with “The Bends.” I mean, come on.

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