Radiohead closed out the final show of its four night run at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The band opened with “Daydreaming”, churned out fan favorites like “There There”, “No Surprises” and “Idioteque”, and ended with “Karma Police” after two encores.
Despite being a nearly lifelong listener, it was my first time seeing the band live. And if I could go back in time, I probably would not have done it at MSG. But here we are.
Let me preface by saying this had nothing to do with Radiohead’s performance, which was (as one would expect of a band at this level) incredibly tight, and which featured a fantastic setlist. It had entirely to do with how I, personally, responded to the experience of seeing this band in this space.
And so here we go. (I already accept there will be some hard disagrees.)
For starters, the girl sitting to my right decided to stand for the entirety of the show, and my view was blocked by her unmoving ass. Now, I can forgive a stander if said stander chooses to go nuts dancing, but SHE DID NOT DANCE! “But maybe she couldn’t see, Megan. Maybe that’s why she was standing.” False: we were in the front row (literally no one to block our view), and she was also the only person in our section who chose to stand. “Well, why didn’t you just tell her to sit down?” Because this weird thing happens when you turn thirty where you want to seem more youthfully chill than you actually are. Also, she asked me if she could “…use this thing? Whatever it’s called?” in reference to the cupholder next to me, and I just felt like any attempt at meaningful dialogue would have been a wasted effort. “Well, why didn’t YOU just stand, Megan?” Because I refuse to start a domino effect, you guys.
SO, my options were then: 1. rear view, or 2. crowd view. So I just set my attention to the mass of humans in the standing room area below, hoping it would make for good people watching. And the more I people watched, the more I felt like any/all magic was being sucked from the music. With the exception of one guy who was losing his mind dancing, it all just felt a little dead inside.
And that’s when I realized I have pretty much ruined myself through too many years of listening to Radiohead at nighttime on back roads, in bedrooms with eyes closed…the songs all have such a cinematic quality about them that, for me, anyway, being at Madison Square Garden to experience them in real time felt tinny and cheap. (To be clear, I do not mean cheap in the financial sense. Because it was not cheap in the financial sense.)
I don’t doubt that people had a great, even religious experience at any/all of Radiohead’s four shows at the venue. But being in the same room as Thom Yorke didn’t make me feel any closer to him than I have the past two and a half decades. In fact, he felt more distant than ever before.
“What do you expect, Megan? They’re RADIOHEAD! Where do you want them to play? Rockwood? The Bowery Electric?” Yeah, I know! I sound ridiculous! But I’m trying to make a point that just because you like a band, and just because they play well at the show, doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to have a great time!
That’s not to say I love Radiohead any less. I just know that if they head back to MSG anytime soon, I’ll stick to the tried and true headphones experience somewhere a little more ambient.