The British art-rockers performed a career-spanning set at the fest's 25th anniversary in Chicago

By Kevin O'Donnell
July 30, 2016 at 03:00 PM EDT
Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Early into Radiohead’s headlining set at Lollapalooza in Chicago on Friday, frontman Thom Yorke walked to the front of the stage to address the fans packed tightly against the front-row barricade. “Whassup!” he said, half-mockingly in an American accent. “You alright, you alright, you alright?” Minutes later, during another break, he abandoned any semblance of the English language altogether, choosing instead to mutter something that sounded like “muyva mua mua muyva mua.”

For the duration of the British art-rock group’s performance, banter from one of rock’s most enigmatic stars was scarce. But Yorke didn’t need to deliver any commands to pump up the crowd: in recent years, Radiohead shows have become major music events themselves. The group, who rarely tour the States, have returned to promote their excellent new album A Moon Shaped Pool with just nine dates. (To say demand is high of Radiohead tickets is an understatement). So it makes sense that over two hours last night — with 24-songs and two encores —  the group delivered a blockbuster set that spanned most of their two-decade career.

Naturally, Radiohead kicked things off with their freshest material: the jittery anthem “Burn the Witch,” the nightmarish “Daydreaming,” the dizzying “Ful Stop.” From there, they dipped deeper into their catalog, going as far back as 1995’s The Bends. Where many artists might overhaul classic cuts with new arrangements, Radiohead stuck to their tried-and-true playbook. And it suited them: 1994’s anthemic “My Iron Lung” and 2000’s electro-steeped “Idioteque” still sounded fresh, urgent, and exciting in 2016. Only one song, “Everything in Its Right Place,” seemed to have gotten a slight rearrangement: Yorke swapped the mellow electronic keyboard for a gauzy, Prophet synthesizer while drummers Phil Selway and Clive Deamer’s tight grooves sounded deeper and more ferocious than ever.

Earlier this week, Radiohead kicked off their North American tour at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and the indoor venue only enhanced their dense and layered arrangements — not to mention a killer, Matrix-esque light show. At Lollapalooza, however, the group had to contend with predictable fest-goers who preferred to chit-chat and the thumping wub-wub-wub from adjacent headliners Major Lazer across the field. But it didn’t matter: Radiohead’s quieter, darker lullabies like “Let Down” and “Pyramid Song” were the most enrapturing of the night. And when the group returned for their show-closing second encore to perform “Karma Police,” the crowd overtook the band to shout along to the chorus, “For a minute there, I lost myself!” — it was the most blissed-out moment in an evening full of them.

Radiohead’s Lollapalooza Setlist

Burn the Witch

Daydreaming

Ful Stop

2+2=5

Myxomatosis

My Iron Lung

Climbing Up the Walls

No Surprises

Pyramid Song

Bloom

Identikit

The Numbers

The Gloaming

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Everything in Its Right Place

Idioteque

There There

Encore

Let Down

Present Tense

Paranoid Android

Nude

Bodysnatchers

Second Encore

Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Karma Police

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