Radiohead in Florence, Italy
It’s a long but lovely walk from the centre of beautiful Florence to the Parco delle Cascine, the open-air venue in which Radiohead continued their rescheduled European tour on Sunday. There was a festival atmosphere on the balmy Italian September evening, as dusk drew in on the large stage nestled in the trees. Electro-artist Caribou opened, warming up the expectant crowd nicely with a chilled but energising set.
Radiohead themselves began what was to be a two-hour gig with Bloom from King of Limbs, a popular choice with the crowd, and proceeded to work through a mammoth, well-balanced set list which both nicely promoted King of Limbs and drew on their back catalogue enough not to disappoint. What’s pleasing about Radiohead now is that unlike many long-serving bands, they’ve reached a unique point with their fans whereby the crowd aren’t there just to hear the old stuff. They continue to prove that they can still write, still perform and still deliver after all their years in the business, and their live versions always provide a re-imagining of the tracks, keeping them fresh and encouraging a revisit to the albums.
Whoever designed the stage and lighting deserves an Olympic-sized gold medal. Large suspended screens moved smoothly around above the band, forming shapes and displaying disembodied images, with careful graphics and sensitive use of colour, working in harmony with the light show. These screens brilliantly enhanced each number by being integral to it without distracting or overpowering. At various points a mysterious QR code was displayed which was frustratingly impossible to capture or scan – answers on a postcard if anyone knows what it was for.
In typical Radiohead style, the flow of music was punctuated with very little between-song chat aside from a few basic greetings in Italian and a dedication of The Daily Mail to Berlusconi that received a good-natured cheer. This was one of the (many) highlights – a hush fell over the audience and it demonstrated that the band’s talent for songwriting remains strong. You and Whose Army from Amnesiac, with its simple, delicate piano opening, was complimented beautifully by a strange, fragmented, close-up camera angle of Thom’s eye on the screens, bringing a chilling Orwellian feel to mind. Nude, one of the stand-out tracks from In Rainbows, had the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention, while Karma Police and Airbag (despite having an ever so slight “by the book” feel) delighted the OK Computer fans, and a sneaky Bends track, Planet Telex, was also well received.
The best track by far was Idioteque, which closed the lengthy main set with impossibly high energy, but the very last track of the second encore, Everything In Its Right Place (preceded by a sample of REM’s The One I Love) was a well-judged finale to a concert with no weak links and flawless, stylish, professional delivery. Despite the long journey and the jam-packed set with no time-wasting waffle, there was still appetite for more – UK fans have a treat in store when the band arrive in October.
For further information and future gigs visit Radiohead’s website here.
Listen to The King of Limbs here: