Coachella 2017: Radiohead sounds good when the sound works – Press-Enterprise
Radiohead returned to Coachella as headliners for a third time on Friday and they sounded great in a career-spanning set that included “Creep,” a much-loved early song that seldom appears in their sets anymore, or at least they sounded great when you could actually hear them.
In perhaps the worst sound foul-up ever for such a prominent slot at the desert music fest the sound cut out entirely for large parts of “Full Stop,” “15 Step” and “Let Down” – three of the first seven numbers in Radiohead’s set.
The crowd groaned each time but because the band play with in-ear sound monitors they had little idea what was happening into the end of each song. After leaving the stage twice briefly things seemed to get back on track nearly an hour into the set.
Radiohead’s show started slowly, with newer tunes such as “Daydreaming,” with its lovely piano part played by Jonny Greenwood, and “Desert Island Disk,” a pretty number built around singer Thom Yorke’s voice and acoustic guitar.
Older numbers in the first hour such as “Airbag” off the “OK Computer” album and “Street Spirit (Fade Out) got big responses from the crowd.
Radiohead headlined Coachella in 2004 and 2012 before this year, and while they were big draws in past years the changing tastes of festival fans, and programmers saw them get one of their smallest crowds here. On Friday night the dance music In the Sahara tent — with Empire of the Sun and Dillon Francis slotted opposite Radiohead – surely drew a big chunk of fans away from the main stage.
And it’s their loss for not being there because this is one the great bands of the past two decades, emotionally complex, musically challenging, and when the sound system cooperates a true delight to see and hear.
Midnight passed and we’d gone six whole songs without any more sound issues, knock wood, and the set was finally as it should be with glorious takes on “There There” and “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” as Saturday arrived.
“Idioteque” delivered its promise of slinky syncopation, while “Nude” remains one of the loveliest of Yorke’s vocals. Near the end of the set, just before launching into “Creep,” Yorke commented, “A funny thing happened on the way to the festival tonight – no it didn’t.”
That song, from the band’s debut album, “Pablo Honey,” has long been a fan favorite, but the band moved away from it years ago, playing it only sporadically in recent years. In the last 12 months or so it’s popped up in Radiohead’s sets maybe a dozen times. Before that it doesn’t seem to have been performed by the band since 2009. The year before that it actually got a performance by a Coachella headliner when Prince delivered a stunningly good version of it here.
“Creep” lead into a brief break not caused by audio problems after which the band tore through a five-song encore that included three songs from the band’s third album, “OK Computer,” a record that helped the band break through to a much bigger audience and has remained a fan favorite ever since.
Those songs — “No Surprises,” “Paranoid Android,” and the final number, “Karma Police,” made near-perfect a show that at the outset seemed headed for disaster, sending home fans who stuck it out, and didn’t ditch rock and roll for dance music, happy, tired and content.