As promised, here is a picture of the setlist the band intended to play at last night’s gig.
And here is what they actually played …
- Burn the Witch
- Decks Dark
- Desert Island Disk
- Ful Stop
- Lotus Flower
- The National Anthem
- My Iron Lung
- No Surprises (Tour Debut // first performance since 2009) (Happy Birthday sung to Phil afterwards)
- The Numbers
[End of Main Set]
- True Love Waits (LD)
- Present Tense
- Paranoid Android
- Tinker Tailor
- Creep (Tour Debut // first performance since 2009)
- Pyramid Song
While this suggests they had intended to play Just, the ‘?’ added to the song on the ‘original’ list, together with the very obvious fact that the lighting sequence for Creep had been prepared in advance, makes one think that the ‘song that dare not speak its name’ was always on the cards.
Just to clarify something. The issue isn’t whether Creep is a great song or not. Rather, the issue is what it means to the band. Every song has a context, and that context matters to a band such as Radiohead. I rather liked this comment about Creep on the reddit discussion of last night’s gig:
What I like about it the most is that I feel like it was a motivating factor in the band pushing themselves to be more than just the parameters that the song seem to initially set for them. It’s all, in a way, been a reaction to this song…I guess what I’m saying is that this song helped these guys go onto become the best band on the planet and for that it will always be an important part of their legacy.
One can quibble with the ‘best band’ stuff, but the important point is clear: this song drove the band to prove themselves creatively, but not after almost destroying them as they suffered collective meltdown during the tortuous studio sessions for The Bends. Creep made them huge, but in doing so, placed them under incredible pressure – or at least, made them place themselves under incredible pressure.
It was also a song with baggage. When Thom Yorke received a letter from a convicted murderer in prison, congratulating him for explaining his feelings and motivations in those lyrics – well, imagination how that would make you feel. It was a song dripping with sarcasm, and yet many of its biggest admirers were not simply hearing it like that.
No wonder they didn’t want to play it.
For this reason, it will never be ‘just’ a good or a bad song.
Another example of this principle at work is True Love Waits. This was a song Radiohead played live for many years, but never committed to tape in a studio until A Moon Shaped Pool. Why? Something said by Nigel Godrich – Radiohead’s producer – back in 2012 hints at a possible reason … if one reads the lyrics in a very personal way:
We tried to record it countless times, but it never worked … To [songwriter Thom Yorke’s] credit, he needs to feel a song has validation, that it has a reason to exist as a recording.
If this is indeed the case where this song is concerned, it would surely explain Yorke’s reluctance to sing it live now – it’s a deeply personal song, expressing emotions that must be extremely raw for him now following his breakup with Rachel Owen, a relationship that – after all – had lasted half of his life.
And it certainly explains the fact that, when the opening notes of the song sounded last night, there was a tremendous buzz in the air. It was absolutely electrifying. There were some screams at the back at first, but as the song went on, you really could sense nothing but deafening silence in the hall. By the end, when he simply said – “that’s it” – it was almost unbearable to listen to.
In purely vocal terms, Thom Yorke will doubtless give ‘stronger’ performances of this song in future, probably on this tour. But emotionally, this one will always be special because – as with Creep – it was a performance both craved and yet really – really – not expected.