Maturing Into Greatness
Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times, April 5, 1996

Three years after many critics wrote off Radiohead as a one-hit wonder, the pensive group is proving that its wonder years are far from over.

At Thursday's sold-out concert at Metro, the five-man band from Oxford, England, played a mesmerizing set that showed that its intense touring schedule (more than 110 dates in America alone) has transformed it from a good live group into a great one.

During their first U.S. tour, when they opened for Belly, the musicians seemed tentative on stage, and Thom Yorke suffered his share of vocal flubs. Thursday, Yorke's voice held up throughout the 90-minute set, even though he was sick. Actually, all the musicians, except for guitarist Ed O'Brien, had colds. Like their detractors, the musicians aren't wholly satisfied with their 1993 debut CD "Pablo Honey," which contained the breakthrough hit single "Creep." So it wasn't surprising that their set was heavy on songs from their current CD, "The Bends."

The numbers from that album have a sweet melancholy to them that translates well live. Yorke has a clear, moany voice that conveys longing and ennui in songs such as their current hit "High and Dry." Standing center stage with his choppy red hair and thin, pale face, he looked like a waif, especially next to the 6-foot-5 O'Brien.

Yorke, O'Brien and lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood bombarded the senses with their layered, edgy guitar work, while Greenwood's bassist brother, Colin, and drummer Phil Selway made an impeccable rhythm section.

Except for a couple full-throttle songs such as "How Do You?" -- which sounds like it could have been an outtake from John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band days -- the majority of Radiohead's songs aren't of the head-banging variety. So it was understandable that the group members, especially Yorke, grew agitated by the incessant moshing and body surfing that went on before them.

No more processes.

One of the highlights was the introduction of a new number, "Lift," that's slated for the upcoming CD. The band seemed more enthralled performing that gentle ballad than its hit "Creep," which it did because it had to, not because it wanted to.