Thom Yorke October 26, the Chelsea.
When Thom Yorke performs on his two-year-old Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes tour, he does so alongside longtime musical cohort (and Radiohead producer) Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri. That is to say, despite not playing a traditional instrument during the show, Barri stands onstage as an equal member of the band, status he demonstrated again Saturday night at the Chelsea that he absolutely deserves.
Yorke’s gigs outside Radiohead have become equal parts audio performance and visual spectacle, much in the same way Daft Punk’s 2006-2007 Alive pyramid, Nine Inch Nail’s 2008 Lights in the Sky LED curtain and Kraftwerk’s ongoing 3D production have dazzled the eyes as much as the ears. The 51-year-old Englishman’s second concert at the Cosmopolitan in 10 months (he played the same venue three days before Christmas last year) drove home that point 20 times—as in, he and Godrich played 20 songs, and Barri made them all more memorable with his video creations.
Lots of acts run images on screens, and some trigger them in real time. But what Barri does—begin with a preset palate of colors, patterns and shapes, then manipulate them by in the moment with tools that allow him to react to the emotional output of Yorke’s voice, Godrich’s synths and the crowd’s response—is far from typical. And it feels naturally connected to Yorke’s output, a futuristic, electronically generated form of music that feels light years even from the electronic rock of 2000’s Kid A.
Those who attended both Chelsea shows caught six setlist additions: “I Am a Very Rude Person,” “Runawayaway,” “Last I Heard (… He Was Circling the Drain)” and the majestic “Dawn Chorus” off Yorke’s June album Anima; show opener “Has Ended” off 2018 soundtrack Suspiria; and, most surprisingly, second encore “Spectre,” Radiohead’s rejected James Bond film contribution, which had yet make an appearance on this leg of the tour. Fans also got more of Yorke’s frenetic, unselfconscious dancing, an excellent visual foil for Barri’s work on the screens behind him.
The night also featured some rather silly banter (“Vegas baby” twice and “I’ve got one more in me before you, I don’t know, go back to your slot machines or take acid or whatever it is you do in Las Vegas; I’m confused, what happens here?”) about a city that clearly continues to confound the frontman for a band that hasn’t visited since 1995. But otherwise, everything Yorke and his bandmates attempted felt otherworldly, and thankfully, beyond the ability of our phones’ camera lenses to fully capture.