I took my 12-year-old son, Levi, to the Radiohead concert at the Verizon Center last night and came away stunned, even though I’m not a huge fan of the band. In fact, it was the most satisfying rock show I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to many. But I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
After hiking to our seats—is it possible to reach “the summit” of an indoor arena?—I immediately noticed we were about as far from the stage as humanly possible. Levi noticed it, too, and I began readying a “wasn’t it great being in the same room as Radiohead” post-show consolation speech/pep talk, because, for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine how a handful of morose Brits could bridge the chasm.
Three songs in, I couldn’t imagine ever doubting them. 20 songs later, the houselights came up—as an Ellington song played, a nice touch in the Duke’s hometown—and Levi and I turned to each other with a simultaneous, Wow!
The performance transcended any blow-by-blow account of the set list—just know that I got goose bumps big as dimes, my eyes misted three or four times, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish.
A middle-aged guy to our right—in blue button-down, khakis, and loafers—sat ramrod straight and stared intently at the stage, as if the band was imparting special knowledge to him and him alone, and he might be quizzed on it later. To our left, a young African-American couple danced through the entire show and mouthed all the words. Levi’s reaction was a combination of the two.
During the drive home, I asked him how Radiohead connects so deeply with such seemingly disparate people, who were all experiencing the show from atop Mount Verizon. The artful staging and impeccable sound helped, but that didn’t nearly explain it. Levi thought about it for a minute, and then said, “They’re soulful,” which pretty much nailed it.
It also explained why I couldn't stop thinking of Marvin Gaye. Yup, Thom Yorke conjured Marvin Gaye's aching vulnerability and soaring soul, on a Sunday night, in D.C.
Now, that's peculiar.