As I walked out of the RDS on the night of June 21, 1997 little did I realise that it would be 20 years until I saw Radiohead perform again.
Or that it would be in a city on the other side of the world, a few thousand miles from where Thom Yorke once floated down the Liffey.
But Portland, Oregon, where the band played last weekend, has one thing in common with that summer’s night in Dublin – plenty of rain.
My abiding memory of the RDS show is Yorke, arms extended, singing “rain down on me, from a great height“, as the heavens opened over Dublin.
Portland’s Moda Center is an indoor basketball arena, so there were no such apt theatrics last weekend. Instead there occurred a performance far more powerful than the one I’d seen during the band’s purported OK Computer heyday.
In fact, Radiohead appear to have left their most popular album behind; only ‘Airbag’ and ‘No Surprises’ were aired at the Moda Center (the latter was admittedly one of the highlights of the night, not least for the reaction to it’s “bring down the government, they don’t speak for us line“).
Instead, some 20,000 of us were treated to a loud, jittering, two-drummers-and-plenty-of-knob-twisting production that – days after Khan Sheikhun gas attack and shortly before the U.S. dropped the GBU-43/B MOAB bomb – seemed perfectly in tune with the times.
Songs like ‘The National Anthem’ and ‘Idioteque’ were full-on sensory attacks, performances whose lyrics (“women and children first, and the children first, and the children“) did little to reassure.
Even when things quieted down, during ‘Lotus Flower’ or ‘You and Whose Army?’, the tension remained, the sense of dread shifting from the public to the personal.
It erupted close to the end, with the performance of ‘Burn The Witch’, a song of round ups, gallows, persecutions, and paranoia, an anthem an the age of ICE arrests.
“Burn the witch, we know where you live,” intoned Yorke.
The Nineties couldn’t have seemed farther away.