Every so often I like to play music blogger and I'm lucky I have some friends who will indulge me. On Monday I attended an Atoms for Peace concert and I've written it up for a friend's site. Here's a taste:
I’ve never seen Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke happier than he was on Monday night, dancing with reckless abandon around the stage while his Atoms for Peace bandmates found grooves reminiscent of both West African percussion, thanks to Joey Waronker and Maura Refosco, and Krautrock, thanks to Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who here plays guitar and keyboards. It also makes perfect sense that Flea would be the bassist for this group. After all, his life seems like one long bass drop, and he also pogoed around the stage like a theater geek’s take on someone with a deficit disorder.
The setlist focused on Yorke’s solo record, The Eraser, for which Atoms for Peace formed, and the band’s first record, Amok, released earlier this year. The majority of the three-quarters full arena seemed to be there out of curiosity and respect for Yorke, and true to DC’s reputation, did the “standing still” for most of the concert as the band filled the venue with brittle funk. Yorke completists got to hear U.N.K.L.E.’s “Rabbit in Your Headlights” reworked by the band, though sadly the drumming on Massive Attack’s propulsive, big beat Underdog remix did not make an appearance. Of the newer material, “Ingenue” was a rare moment of relative quiet, Yorke on piano, Godrich plinking away on a synthesizer, and culminating in a drum and bass breakdown in which Refosco played a bucket. The two standout songs came from The Eraser. “Cymbal Rush” closed the first part of the set with Yorke on piano singing one of his more lucid songs while the dual drumming of Waronker and Refosco clattered around him. The high hats and Brazilian percussion entered, increasing the beats per minute as Godrich and Flea created a wall of noise. And then, silence. The Eraser’s title track opened the first encore, with a melody so slinky and seductive I half expected Prince to come out and duet (side note to the Purple One, please cover this).
None of this is to say that Yorke seems unhappy with Radiohead, who he’s dragged closer and closer to something like Atoms for Peace over the last two records, shedding three-guitar rock and then Brian Eno-esque ambient soundscapes for more beat-driven adventures, but as of this moment, Atoms for Peace feels like his band, and more importantly for the audience, they feel like a band, not a side project.The full review and setlist is here.