Published Jul 17, 2018One thing is clear: Radiohead don't simply "play a show," they curate a reverential experience. For the first of two packed Montreal shows, Thom Yorke and company brought the hits, as well as the deep cuts, for one the most impressive sets that the Bell Centre has seen this year. Or any year.
Taking to the stage first were Junun, Jonny Greenwood's side project with Israeli artist Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express, a collection of supremely talented Rajasthani musicians. Launching into a short, explosive set comprised of tracks off their self-titled and highly-praised 2015 album, the group brought their traditionally sunny music to a large, dark stage, transforming a fun opening set into a serpentine celebration of international sounds.
After a short setup, Radiohead took to the stage without much fanfare and launched into "Daydreaming" off their latest release A Moon Shaped Pool; a screen loomed over them in the background, looking like a giant egg tipped on its side. Halfway into their sombre opening, the stage burst into light; white strobes reflected off of rotating disco balls, shooting starry rays into the audience as the song built around the dramatic display. The spellbound crowd looked on, and some were already crying before the five-minute mark.
Moving through "Desert Island Disk" and "Ful Stop," the band decided to change gears, diving back a decade into "2+2=5" and "Kid A." Looking like a shaman in front of the rapt audience, Yorke wiggled and writhed in his trademark way through each track. In the background, the Greenwoods, along with Philip Selway and Ed O'Brien, built their own virtuosic universes on their respective pockets of the stage, coating the venue walls in sound.
While reports from their previous multi-date Chicago and New York shows mentioned some of Yorke's anti-government quips and full-on rants about the state of America, the band's Montreal show instead focused on bolting ahead through as many songs as possible in a short amount of time, fitting in the quick "merci" when the moment called for it.
The next few songs — "Videotape," "No Surprises," "Separator" and "Bloom" — were marked, rightfully, by multiple standing ovations. At one point, everyone from the floor to the nosebleed sections just stayed standing. It was almost as if Radiohead sat down and mined their repertoire for every single fan-favourite since their inception. But that's easy, because there are many.
If the previous tracks weren't enough, the noticeably up-tempo second half of their set brought the commanding "Everything In Its Right Place," followed shortly by "Lotus Flower," with O'Brien infusing the riff with a bit of surf-rock flair.
Ending their main set with "Nude," off 2007's In Rainbows, the band came back for an encore amidst the roars of the crowd and hundreds of cellphones in the air, creating walls of light. Beginning with "Bodysnatchers" and then moving into the forever crowd-pleasing "House of Cards" to undulating screams, the band moved seamlessly into "Present Tense," "Idioteque" and "The Tourist," off Ok Computer, before saying their goodbyes.
But no one was leaving. They returned for a second, final encore, ended the night with a stunning rendition of "Karma Police": the true nightcap that the Montreal crowd had been craving since the beginning.