When I think of the best concerts I've seen, I always flash back to Pink Floyd in early 1972. Almost two years before the band released what would become Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd performed the entire suite of songs to the amazement of us all. We'd never heard any of the songs (then titled Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics), and with its quadrophonic sound, it remains the most massive musical surprise I've experienced.
Radiohead's show at the Santa Barbara Bowl came as close for musicianship and creativity as any show I've seen in 37 years. I've seen a lot of shows.
These guys write great songs, and sometimes you can even sing along to them, but what they do better than any band is create a sonic adventure — a soundscape which, at its best, stretches time and allows the mind to wander and rejuvenate. I think of it as resetting the synapses. Creativity breeds creativity. When the music was over, I felt unboxed and changed and pretty darn happy. Drugs are overrated; music is underrated.
Back in February, All Songs Considered invited Radiohead's Thom Yorke on the show to discuss the music he loved. He was happy to talk about someone else's music, after months of being asked about the record business and the decision he and his band made to release In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-want download. So Thom Yorke played DJ for us, turned me and others on to new music, and talked about creating In Rainbows. We had a good chat, but our meeting was long-distance; he was in Oxford and I was in Washington, D.C. We made mention of meeting when the band came to America for its tour.
So after the show, my guide Laura Eldeiry of the band's PR firm, Nasty Little Man, told me to wait around for Thom; that he'd come around and we'd have that face-to-face we'd talked about.
I've never understood how someone can perform and create for more than two hours and come down to earth enough to carry on a conversation. I could never do it. When Thom finally arrived, he said he was blasted (tired, that is), but he looked happy and satisfied. We talked a bit of politics; Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention took place in tandem with the Radiohead show.
I told him how unusual I thought it was to have a thinker like Barack Obama running for president; Yorke talked about corruption and lobbying in British politics, and said to be careful about pinning all of your hopes on one person.
Later, on the car ride home, I thought of the words to "Videotape" from Radiohead's In Rainbows: "Today has been the most perfect day I have ever seen."