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Music Review

The solid state of Radiohead

radiohead Radiohead, fronted by lead singer Thom Yorke (left), played the Comcast Center on Aug. 13. (Globe Photo/Christine Hochkeppel)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / August 14, 2008
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MANSFIELD - Radiohead created a lot of buzz when it offered the initial release of its latest album "In Rainbows" in the form of a "pay-what-you-like" digital download late last year. But that's business; the adventurous British quintet was already near-peerless in terms of buzz status as performers.

Last night at the Comcast Center Thom Yorke and company burnished their reputation as a one-of-a-kind live experience.

Few groups are able to transport such a large audience to what feels like a separate state without employing typical psychedelic clichés or pumping hallucinogens into the air. Yet, for just over two hours every hissing tape effect, off-kilter rhythm, delicate finger pick, and well-placed Yorke howl built a fresh landscape in which to get lost.

It's possible for Radiohead to do this in part because it changes its set list every night, so it's as individual an experience for the fan as it is for the band. Plus the dizzying yet still somehow minimal visual presentation - a multitude of dazzling light rods with cameras affixed beaming split images on central and side video screens - surely helps.

Starting with the itchy cymbal dancing of "Reckoner" the band eased into a groove and Yorke scaled his highest falsetto. The songs flowed seamlessly from there as the seductive contours of "Optimistic" oozed into the tom-tom attack of "There, There."

A sense of shrinking and expansion permeated the soundscapes as songs like "Exit Music (For a Film)" would begin almost stealthily, build to cathartic explosions, and then dwindle back down to embers. Although Yorke was shaking his head at his playing, the acoustic "Faust Arp" had plenty of tender charm.

Yorke - whose voice sailed, cracked, and moaned in all the right places - is often the focal point with his loose-limbed shimmying but his band mates' contributions were equally praiseworthy with a special note going to guitarist Ed O'Brien's indispensable backing vocals, especially on "The Gloaming."

There were a few snoozy bits - partially because they played all of the more-chill "Rainbows" - but just when you felt you'd wandered into some nutty, downtempo avant-garde disco, the band gave itself and the rapt audience an explosive kick in the butt. A surprisingly snarly version of "The Bends," the fuzzy wriggle of "National Anthem," and the frenzied breaks of "Paranoid Android" neatly fit that bill.

The encores included Yorke offering a piano-ballad version of "Cymbal Rush" from his solo album "The Eraser" and "Karma Police." The group called it a night with the twitch and throb of "Idioteque." It was not the most intense performance the group has given in these parts, but the level of quality and inspiration was high.

Grizzly Bear created a complementary mood toggling between ramshackle indie rockers that collapsed into trance-like drones and wispier bits of pop with yearning Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies.

Radiohead

With Grizzly Bear

At: the Comcast Center, last night

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