Cristal En Vivo Festival, La Pista Atlética, Estadio Nacional, Santiago de Chile
Friday 27th March 2009
Nobody could quite believe it at first. As the familiar strains of the song that Radiohead refused to play for years drifted across the National Stadium, 30,000 fans looked at each other in shock. Then the euphoric screaming started. Those who had busily scoured the internet message boards for the set lists of the earlier Brazilian and Argentinean dates had hoped they might hear it (the band had encored with it there), but nobody, not a soul, expected them to open with Creep. Even for Radiohead, the most quixotic band on the planet, this was off the scale.
For the audience, it had been a long time in coming. The second of two nights in the Chilean capital, but the first to go on sale, they were finally rewarded for their patience. There are essentially two types of Radiohead fan. Those that only worship at the altar of one or two early albums, and others who adore every twist and turn of the band’s output, from the prog rock of OK Computer to the bleepy noise of Kid A. Tonight, the final stop on the band’s first ever South American tour, it was the latter who were in attendance and they weren’t disappointed.
Few bands better understand the concept of building intensity to a set list than Radiohead, moving from shade to light and back again, with scarcely a pause for breath. From the heavy percussion and dreamy vocals of The Reckoner (from latest offering In Rainbows) to the grungy college-rock riffs of 1995 single Just, they launched into the warped electronic sound clash of Idioteque before stopping the crowd dead with Exit Music for a Film. As Thom Yorke gently strummed his acoustic guitar and whispered into the mike, the only sound from the audience was that of cigarette smoke being exhaled, the clicking of cameras and souls being emotionally wrung dry.
With the technical glitches of the night before behind them – when they were forced to leave the stage for nearly ten minutes – the band looked relaxed and happy. Back on stage for the first of two encores, guitarist Ed O’Brien told the masses, in heavily accented but perfect Spanish, that it had been the band’s dream to come to Chile. The crowd of course went wild.
As the minutes passed and the band played a beguiling version of House of Cards ( the finest song from In Rainbows), muffled discussions between fans began as to what they could possibly finish with. Masters of leaving audiences on a high, it was Paranoid Android that finally sent them on their away, a filling-loosening riot of visuals, guitars and noise.
If there were any complaints tonight, they certainly weren’t to do with the music. In a very unRadiohead show of capitalism, tickets were priced on a sliding scale, meaning few young Chileans could afford to be at the front in the ‘Golden Circle’. Those who had queued for hours found themselves penned in behind a barrier half way down the field, from where shouts of ‘more volume’ were audible and frequent. Bizarrely for an event sponsored by a local brewery, they couldn’t even console themselves with a beer, as the only things on sale were fizzy pop and biscuits. Just try getting away with that in Britain.