Thom Yorke thrills with Atoms For Peace

A review of Atoms For Peace at the Wang Theatre on April 8, 2010

, Staff Writer

As if fronting for arguably the most influential band of the past 20-years weren’t enough, Thom Yorke has enjoyed a wildly successful solo career since the release of 2006 solo debut The Eraser. Yorke has now formed a supergroup that includes longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and the Chili Peppers’ Flea. Under the moniker Atoms For Peace, the band is in the middle of a brief eight-show tour across the US before their appearence at the Coachella Festival in California. This past Thursday, Boston was lucky enough to host one of their performances, bringing a musical experience that finds itself directly in between Radiohead and The Eraser.

Atoms For Peace took the stage to an absolute raucous road from the capacity crowd as the opening cords of “The Eraser” could barely be heard over the cheers of recognition that erupted across the theater. Immediately everyone was on their feet, dancing to Yorke’s oblong rhythms. He kept his back to the audience through most of the first song, hunched over an upright piano, though his voice floated well above the glitchy electronic pad underneath. The first 45-minutes of the show were devoted to playing The Eraser, track by track, in its entirety. It’s not often that a band performs an album all the way through nowadays, and the distinct progression of the disc added significance to each song, especially considering that most people in the audience had this man’s oeuvre completely memorized.

It should be said that, while undeniably a groovy studio cut, The Eraser is a lot more danceable when Atoms For Peace gives it their treatment: percussion tracks sharpen and reverberate, synth lines fill more space, and Flea fattens up the bass, really attacking those strings and giving the rest of the band a strong backbone to ride. Flea and Yorke share a stage perfectly – both have their own way of dancing around the sage, Yorke spinning and noodle-dancing, Flea stomping his feet and thrusting his upper body violently. There was just a whole lot of cool greatness coming from the stage.

While the whole of The Eraser was masterfully performed, a few tracks definitely stood out, particularly towards the second half of the album. It seemed like everyone started to vibe together right around “Atoms For Peace” and by the time “Cymbal Rush” came, the Wang was definitely a pretty sweaty place. Immediately after finishing the last song, the lights shut off and the band quickly exited the stage.

At first it seemed like we’d just been a part of the shortest concert ever, but after a minute or so Yorke came back on by himself and did a few songs completely solo. He started with a new tune, “The Present Tense”, his voice and the guitar sounding exquisite against one another. He then headed back to the piano where he laid down a gorgeous “Like Spinning Plates”, which simply had the crowd enraptured. Surprisingly (and perhaps thankfully) audience members managed to fight the urge to sing along, letting Thom’s voice ring uninterrupted through the theatre. During “The Daily Mail”, I guess the band was supposed to sneak back on stage and surprise everyone with a full-band version, but it seems like sneaking unnoticed onto a stage where hundreds of people are looking is, well, impossible. Lack of surprise aside, though, the song sounds great with a full band (in the past Yorke has stuck to the solo piano performance).

After another brief break, the band came on for four more songs, kicking the “encore” off with “Paperbag Writer”, a B-Side of Radiohead’s from the Hail To The Thief days. A newer track, “Judge, Jury and Executioner” followed. “The Hollow Earth”, a leftover from the Eraser sessions, featured the finest goofy Thom Yorke dancing of the evening, and the show closed out with “Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses”, a haunting tune with a relentless and sinister bassline. Yorke’s cryptic, bleak lyrics echoed over themselves as tubes of light strewn across the stage flashed agitatedly in blue, and then, abruptly, it was all over.

It’s nice to see that Thom Yorke isn’t just resting his laurels on his already incredible accomplishments with Radiohead. He uses his name to branch out, stretching his music to places that wouldn’t quite be suitable for his main band. With Atoms For Peace he has put together a solid group of individuals who are able to navigate his complex rhythms and odd harmonics, giving him a medium through which this material can effectively be performed live. While the new Radiohead album may not be for a long while, it’s nice to see Yorke flex his creative muscles.

Leave a Reply