Thom Yorke - Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes Tour
By Jennifer Blaesing Lotus Mob | A.F.T.A.
In a highly anticipated return to Chicago for Thom Yorke, the Radiohead frontman gave a solo performance not to be missed this evening.
The show featured opener Oliver Coates, an experimental cellist from London. I arrive soon after he begins his set with his haunting, voice like cello singing through the entire Chicago Theatre. I am seated about 20 yards from the stage, all the way to the left in an aisle seat, directly across from a statue of a cherub-like boy holding up a bowl, on a black and white checkered floor, in a half-circle cutout in the wall - a statue I had never seen before in my many visits to the Chicago Theatre. It seemed rightfully fitting to be seated next to this angelic presence for this special occasion.
Oscar took a shy moment to muster up some words about how Yorke had found him on YouTube, and asked him to be part of his tour, and he was now to play for us some atmospheric dreamy melodies “to prepare us for the storm that is to come…”
Nevertheless, it isn’t quite clear how to prepare for a Thom Yorke show. This was to be a Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes tour, which was released in 2014. Just recently, he composed the film score to the remake of Suspiria. Not to mention with his debut solo album, The Eraser, and the works created with Atoms for Peace, his solo library is such a vast collection from so many branches, it's hard to determine what surprises he will throw in.
Yorke enters the stage with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri. The show begins with “Interference”, with hypnotic, colorful visual effects by Barri. The audience is eager and enthusiastic, a welcome treat for a Chicago crowd. No one is sitting in their seats, everyone is standing. In my aisle seat, I am fortunate enough to have a killer view whether seated or standing, but of course, I opt to stand as well. Others from seats further back have scooted up the aisle and are hanging out in the cherub boy’s lair beside me.
It all started to swirl together in a euphoric haze (and no, I was not on mushrooms)... the geometric and hypnotic graphics show, the ebb and flow of the songs from dreamy and haunting to hard, wicked dance beats, the angelic boy statue crew, people dancing and cheering. I was swept up, like surfing a wave or a whimsical carpet ride in their geniusly crafted sensational art world.
Much like Yorke’s performance at the Radiohead show over the summer this year, there was a noticeable focus on vocal and emotional precision, more so this year than in tours of distant past, where he seemed to enjoy convulsing around the stage a lot more often. The performance with the trio was fully engaging and mesmerizing. And to see Nigel Godrich joining on the stage was a rare treat as well.
Thom was sure to thank the audience after each and every song. Possibly to show genuine appreciation, or to note the division between songs, as many of the tracks bled together. There was a good selection from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, as expected. Notables from The Eraser were “Black Swan,” “Atoms for Peace,” and “Cymbal Rush.” Several thrown in into the mix weren’t recognizable, even for a pretty die-hard Yorke fan like myself. More favorites included Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” and Atoms for Peace’s “AMOK” and “Default.”
Thom had mentioned in interviews that writing the Suspiria score was more like casting spells than writing songs, a process he called “fuckin’ weird” just before playing his 2nd encore and final song, “Unmade,” which was the only song he played from the film score. But it was evident that he seemed affected by this process creatively in the way that he was interacting with the crowd. Of course, he was his usual energetic, jumpy-twitchy happy self, but as opposed to a Radiohead show, this one had a feeling of actually being cast under Thom’s spells. It was hard to tell if it was the music that gave this kind of feel, or the way he was looking out at us, the way he was gesturing to us with his arms wide open, as if preaching, or as if opening his heart out and welcoming us all into some secret world only Mr. Yorke and his crew seem to know about.
It was almost as though he seemed to have a new appreciation for his own work, and was joyous to share and present it with all those present, who had the ears to hear. Check out the set list below!
(Atoms for Peace song)
(Atoms for Peace song)