Live Review: Thom Yorke @ Fonda Theatre, December 12, 2017
Photo by Sung. Full set here.
The first of a pair of intimate warm up gigs (the second tonight in Oakland) in advance of his Day For Night festival headlining set this weekend, Thom Yorke treated the Fonda Theatre with his solo electronic live show, the first headline presentation of his beat-based music in the U.S.
A minimalist stage setup of three podiums of gear, backed by three projection screens, Yorke was flanked by the familiar Nigel Godrich, producer extraordinaire, seemingly managing the bulk of the electronic foundation from his station (occasionally handling some groovy bass), and the less familiar Tarik Barri, a Dutch audiovisual composer, creating live, generative visuals. The all-black-clad three-piece ran through a 90-minute set of Yorke’s dark, punchy electronica, backed by Barri’s engrossing colors and shapes projections. The combination of bass heavy, groove-based tunes, constantly evolving imagery, and, of course, Yorke’s stage presence made for a compelling performance.
This trio first performed in this incarnation for a handful of European shows in 2015 and Yorke is visibly happy to dust it off for us. A large chunk of set is from Yorke’s second solo album, 2014‘s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, which finally saw a reissued physical release this year. Much of the rest is unreleased material, some of it from those 2015 shows. At one point, someone shouts out, “Where’s the new album?” To which Nigel responds, “This is it!” Fair enough.
The revelation of two completely new tracks will be takeaway of the night for many. The first, the cheekily titled “I am a Very Rude Person,” is a sparse builder with Godrich laying down a laidback groove on the bass, building to a crescendo with Yorke looping his own voice over the beat. The other is “Saturdays,” the main set closer comedown following a frenetic climax of “Cymbal Rush” from 2006’s The Eraser (potent as ever). “Saturdays” is currently short one, a little reminiscent of classic Aphex Twin–midtempo, melancholy synth progression over a skittering hi-hat and kick breakbeat.
The visuals by Barri are a transcendent element in their own right–live, computerized animations of geometric and organic shapes and lines in endless permutations and colors projected in sharp high definition across the three screens. There are no overhead lights on the stage and the room is dark, giving it a cinematic feel, each song receiving its own new visual program. It’s not always clear how he’s playing off the music, though it hardly matters.
After an encore of the first live airing of a dreamy synth dirge “Interference” from TMB, it’s over. Alas, no Radiohead tracks tonight, though this reverent crowd that snapped up tickets in nanoseconds does not seem to mind.
While necessarily categorized as a “side project,” given the enormous footprint of his primary band, this is a fairly full formed concept in its own right. Obviously, strands of Radiohead and Atoms for Peace are woven in and out of the mix, given Yorke’s involvement, nothing more so than his distinct voice, its gliding falsetto in particular. It’s hard to think of another current performer as compelling a performer at far ends of the musical spectrum. Be it with an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, or twiddling with an Elektron drum machine, from rocking an arena or getting heads bobbing in a darkened nightclub.
A Brain in a Bottle
I Am a Very Rude Person (new)
Two Feet Off the Ground (live debut)
Amok (Atoms for Peace)
Not the News
Nose Grows Some
Interference (live debut)
Thom Yorke | wasteheadquarters.com