The standby line of people waiting to see Radiohead’s Austin City Limits taping last night (March 6) officially started forming at noon. The line stretched down Willie Nelson Blvd, but the tell-tale signs of any intimate Radiohead show is always the front. Folks gathered by the entrance, holding pathetic-looking signs reading, “Can I be your +1” or “Wanted: spare ticket. Offering: free karma.” Karma’s great and all, but getting in is much better.
Take Jane, a 28-year-old freelance writer from Chicago. She’d been in the standby line since 2 pm and claimed to have seen Radiohead 76 times since 2000, and had already seen every other show the band had played in Texas. Next stop after Austin? Following them to Missouri. “This is just a special occasion,” she said. Clearly, she has good karma. Or luck, whatever you want to call it.
But Jane was right. The next time Radiohead plays a venue as intimate and compact as the Moody Theater in Austin, and not New York or Los Angeles or London (where they always seem to happen), will be, well most likely, never. So we waited. And waited. And finally something happened.
Emerging onstage without any banter, just minutes after the 8 pm start time, the band opened with “Bloom,” the first track from last year’s The King of Limbs. While some artists choose to use an Austin City Limits taping as a chance to unveil a greatest-hits set for the audiences watching on TV, Radiohead opted to keep the focus very much on the new. The band played the bulk of the tracks from The King of Limbs, as well as that album’s B-sides “The Daily Mail” and “Staircase,” and newly unveiled songs “Identikit” and “Skating On The Surface.” When the band finally played Kid A’s “Idioteque” as the last song before leaving for the encore, it was the first time they played anything that had appeared on an album released before 2003.
Not that anybody minded. Seemingly every time Thom Yorke smiled, it solicited a standing ovation from the crowd. Even rare screw-ups were momentousness occasions: By the time he revealed that even friggin’ Radiohead is human by stopping In Rainbows’ “Reckoner” shortly after it started, the crowd’s cup had runneth over. Before the final encore, Yorke announced the last song by saying, “Finally, one you may know,” and someone in the crowd shouted/joked “Creep,” and the entire room laughed along with the frontman. “Yeah, right,” he said. “Dream on. I was young, MTV made me do it.” A roomful of fans who barely remember “Creep” lost their collective shit, while the band fired up,“Paranoid Android,” not “Karma Police.”