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Concert Reviews:
Radiohead's Thom Yorke makes his own mark with solo show at Masonic
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- For the better part of two decades, Thom Yorke and his band Radiohead were known for avoiding the Detroit area.



Now we've had him twice in two years.



Yorke's stop on his own Tomorrow's Modern Boxes Tour on Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Masonic Temple's Cathedral Theatre followed Radiohead's July 22 show at nearby Little Caesar's Arena. Though obviously smaller in scope, Yorke's own two-hour, 20-song performance was no less ambitious and transcendent -- and even surprising.



The latter came during the night's first encore. Yorke has been eschewing Radiohead material throughout the tour, focusing on his solo albums "The Eraser" and "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" and his band Atoms For Peace. But on Sunday he and his two accompanists (including longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich) came out with a trancey take of "Reckoner," a single from Radiohead's 2007 album "In Rainbows," to the delight of the sold-out Masonic crowd. It was a special moment, to be sure, and gave a lift to a night that was already pitched conceptually high.



While the show had its share of Yorke fan favorites -- including "Black Swan," "Atoms For Peace," "The Clock" and an epic version of "Default" -- Yorke and company challenged throughout, straddling a line between avant pop and trancey EDM. The trio also incorporated six previously unreleased songs into the set, premiering the sinewy "Impossible Knots" and "Two Feet Off the Ground" and the muscular "Not the News. And Yorke, in black T-shirt and slacks and white high-top sneakers -- was engaged and loose, dancing lithely as he hopped between guitar, bass, keyboards and a workstation filled with programming and looping technology.



The real treat of the night, in fact, was watching Yorke and Godrich create their soundscapes live, building and manipulating the songs as Dutch artist Tarik Barri, positioned side stage, created a series of trippy images in real-time on the rear-stage screen, bathing the frontman in hues that complemented and accented the fluidity of the performances. It was its own kind of mad science, but it nevertheless felt as collaborative as any more traditional band performance, with just enough spur-of-the-moment improvisation to insure it was more than just an exercise in pushing buttons and twiddling knobs -- right down to the sharp guitar solo by Yorke at the end of the new "I Am a Very Rude Person."



His final statement, meanwhile, was also the show's starkest moment -- a solo piano performance of "Suspirium" that's part of Yorke's score for the new Luca Guadagnino film of the same name. "I got asked to do a horror film awhile ago -- I thought the obvious thing to do would be to write a waltz," Yorke quipped as Godrich and Barri looked on. Yorke does not do anything that's "obvious," of course, which is what made Sunday's show such a treat -- and will hopefully be the harbinger of more visits to these parts in the not-too-distant future.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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