Radiohead with Grizzly Bear
at the Molson Amphitheatre
August 15th, 2008
By Alice Moran
Photographs by Bernardo Pacheco
You have to be a pretty diehard fan to endure standing on a hill in thunder and lightning, with mud sliding down on you non-stop. Thankfully, this was a Radiohead concert.
Lighting crashed all around the Molson Amphitheatre while Grizzly Bear opened the night (by simply introducing themselves as “the opening act” and playing on with nothing more). Fans with lawn seating huddled together under ponchos, blankets, and garbage bags that generous vendors had handed out freely. By the midpoint, the sun had come out and two perfect rainbows arched across the horizon, as if the powers that be wanted to let the fans know that the rain was meant for the CNE rather than the Radiohead concert. Grizzly Bear were blissful, despite the weather — and the hordes of fans who chose to keep dry and skip their performance. Toronto’s show was their last on tour with Radiohead, and they seemed more focused on taking in the moment rather than hyping their album. Their cover of the Carole King-penned tune “He Hit Me (It Felt like a Kiss)” was a personal highlight, and the beat was perfectly timed to the slow trickle of the last bit of rain.
Obviously, Radiohead was phenomenal. They cut out the clichéd, awkward between-song dialogue between band and audience, and instead focused on delivering the most intense music fans could hope for. The 25-song set list was absolutely perfect, giving fans a generous mix of everything: “There There,” “Morning Bell,” and “Planet Telex.” I found myself lost in “No Surprises,” and couldn’t help but gently sway, in the sea of studded belts and hipster scarves.
More astonishingly, they didn’t perform any of the overplayed Radiohead songs (“Creep,” “Karma Police,” “Just”) — much to the dismay of the preteen girls behind me, who seemed only to care for those three. Long-time fans of the band were rewarded with old gems like “Talk Show Host,” which you may remember from the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack.
Radiohead’s stage setup consisted of a stage-wide panoramic screen and dozens of rectangular lights dangling above the band’s heads. The screen allowed everyone a closeup of the music-makers: for instance, a tight overhead shot of the drumkit during “There There” that highlighted Phil Selway’s amazing drumming.
The wonders of nature collided with modern art during the whole of the concert. During Radiohead’s finale, dozens of seagulls spontaneously flew from the back of the stage out towards Lake Ontario. Combined with the unbelievable light show taking place onstage, the birds seemed to catch each colour as they flew off toward the full moon.
There’s no praise that could be written about this band that wouldn’t be rehashing what music fans have known for years. They’re simply one of the best bands out there.