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- Posted on Aug 31st 2009 4:15AM by Stephen Dowling
So, 15 years on, after 'The Bends,' after the globe-swallowing, band-testing 'OK Computer,' the warping of Radiohead's music into the unsettling electronica of 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' and the brave new world of 'In Rainbows,' the beginning to this long-overdue headline set was a genuine surprise.
Underneath the massive lights display that has already played across their European shows, Thom Yorke wandered up to the microphone and yells 'What's up?" before the band lurched into 'Creep" -- a song usually and grudgingly afforded airtime towards the end of sets -- and a multitude of mouths in the Reading crowd fell towards the ground.
Playful isn't a word often used to describe Radiohead's singer, but the last few years have seen Yorke mellow even as he's grown more confident. Radiohead's superb set included the bruising 'National Anthem' followed by the more lilting '15 Steps,' 'There There' (with guitarists Ed O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood adding percussion) and the claustrophobic 'Climbing Up the Walls', one of five 'OK Computer' tracks aired.
They played an untitled, brooding new song alongside the classics, with Yorke keeping up the chatter throughout. "Colin's going to get drunk now because his pedal doesn't work," he deadpanned at one point, glancing back at bassist Greenwood. "My pedal works fine." Coming back for the encore, Yorke imitated a theatre usher: "Please take your seats, the interval is now over."
In a festival which failed to deliver inspirational headline sets -- Kings of Leon were bitter and surly, Arctic Monkeys loose and self-indulgent -- Radiohead's performance came closest to uniting the field in a communal singalong. As a feather-light rain fell, the gloomy coda to 'Paranoid Android' drifted out over the field, and thousands of weekend-weary voices joined in.