"This song's about Oxford, I s'pose," says Thom Yorke, managing to sound like a spiteful 25-year-old adolescent. Then he starts singing: "I can't afford to breathe in this town..."
He's lying this time. This afternoon, there were gaggles of Japanese kids clustered by the stage door, dissolving in excitement whenever a member of Thom's group crossed their path. Hours later, when he starts songs that the more hysterical pockets of the crowd recognise, people start squealing. There's a celebratory, rather frantic mood about tonight, as though the most devout members of Radiohead's public (concentrated, inevitably, in their home town) are willing them on, extending their arms so as to push them on to the next stage.
And they'll get there, of course: the swathes of new songs played tonight say as much. If My Iron Lung showed them groping towards a new sophistication, leaving behind the last generic vestiges of indie-rock and moving towards everyman appeal and something approaching timelessness, tonight proves it conclusively. Put simply, much of Radiohead's new stuff appears to be all but classic.
You know as much when Planet Telex finds Johnny Greenwood stabbing at a borrowed keyboard, making it sound like a refugee from the opening bars of "Won't Get Fooled Again", until it ends up being a flab-free relative of U2's Bullet The Blue Sky; when Just sounds like The Beatles' Dear Prudence being re-routed through an array of fuzz- pedals; when Fake Plastic Trees and Street Spirit take Thom's trademark barbed ennui and advance it by furlongs. Before (Prove Yourself, Creep, Thinking About You), he'd sneer at the rest of the world while simultaneously sounding like someone who regretted his exclusion. Now, with good reason, he has it in him to sound like someone thrusting his non-conformity in the face of the world and asking them what they're going to do about it. Every aspect of him and his group has been pumped fill of strident self- confidence - so even the old songs sound like they've been comprehensively re-invented. Anyone Can Play Guitar is now peppered by squalling, discordant touches that make it sound like an extended fit of pique.
Stop Whispering, though it contains the ever- embarrassing moment when Thom utters "F--- you" to some unnamed foe, is suddenly coated in the kind of spaceship noises that grace Spiritualized records. Only Creep avoids any kind of makeover; it's handed over to the crowd halfway through, as if Thom wants rid of it, so as everyone can immerse themselves in the new songs without constantly glancing backwards.
Right at the end they play You. As its inaugural bars tumble from the speakers, the teenage fan club - concentrated for some reason at the back of the stalls - squeal their loudest squeals, dazzling white light drenches the group, and Thom starts making the bow-legged movements that give him the appearance of someone being electrocuted. That's when it all becomes transparent. So....
Forget about the fact that they look like the most unlikely heroes imaginable. Drag out the windswept photo locations, the leather trousers and the waiting list for the pantheon of great, great groups.
Because all of a sudden,
Radiohead are worthy of it all. Honestly.