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Tour winds down, and Radiohead loosens up

The British rock band ends its North American jaunt at the Greek, and it plays with noticeable passion.

July 01, 2006|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

Radiohead's mobile music laboratory rolled into Los Angeles for its final experiments Thursday, nearly a month after it kicked off its North American schedule in Philadelphia. Its two tour-closing nights at the Greek Theatre concluded the iconoclastic art-rockers mission of road-testing new songs intended for an upcoming album.

In doing so, the band is disregarding the conventional wisdom that audiences have no patience for unfamiliar material. But then conventional wisdom doesn't apply so much to Radiohead, which has released enough uncommercial music to ensure that its audience is purged of casual fans, leaving those who relish being challenged by the band.

Pretty much, anyway. There might have been a few murmurs of discontent Thursday, at one point prompting singer Thom Yorke to explain that if they weren't doing new songs, they'd still be at home. Overall, though, the sold-out crowd was appropriately attentive and involved, perhaps realizing that this was an opportunity to be savored, and one that could never be duplicated.

Radiohead dropped eight new tunes into its 23-song set, and if a few weeks on the road have worked any change, it was primarily a looseness in music and manner. The exotic "15 Step" seemed more naturally sinuous, and "Nude" and "Down Is the New Up" elicited a light, swinging touch from the band (light and swinging for Oxford art-rockers, anyway). The newest entry was the ballad "All I Need," which made its debut at a Chicago concert last week.

Yorke was also more outgoing than he was at the tour opener, bantering a bit with the crowd and sometimes playfully moving to the front of the stage and casting an enigmatic gaze into their faces. The laughs and smiles among the five musicians reflected the predominantly lighter tone of the new material.

Not that they've relinquished their jurisdiction over the more troublesome side of human nature. Doubts and darkness lurk even in the more serene new songs, and when they fired up the old favorites from albums "OK Computer," "Kid A," et al., they played them with undiminished passion and conviction.

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