Music review: Thom Yorke, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's name may be above the titles on this tour but his latest live outing is a three-way collaboration with his longtime wingman, producer Nigel Godrich, with whom he plays in side project Atoms For Peace, and visual artist Tarik Barri, who creates in-the-moment digital action painting across five large screens.
Thom Yorke PIC: Kevin Winter/GettyThom Yorke PIC: Kevin Winter/Getty
Thom Yorke PIC: Kevin Winter/Getty

Thom Yorke, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ***

Meanwhile opening act Oliver Coates, a contemporary classical cellist with whom Yorke and Godrich collaborated on the most recent Radiohead album, A Moon Shaped Pool, had to make do with the dim glow of a couple of LED poles to light his brooding but at times stormy suite of strident, distorted drones and keening, mournful melodies, mixed through with vocal and other samples and loops.

This set the earnest but cathartic tone to follow. Barri was first on to the stage, metaphorical paintbrush in hand, taking his place behind one of the clinical consoles in a sparse stage laboratory set-up which implied that important work was being done here. But the show began soulfully enough with undulating electric piano and Yorke’s plaintive voice floating over the echoey lament of Interfere.

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Maybe it was the grand Usher Hall setting but what followed chimed as the kind of credible yet accessible performance which would happily have found a home in the International Festival’s contemporary music programme had the timing been right.

With one exception, the set comprised a seamless suite of tracks from across Yorke’s solo albums, plus a handful of newer songs introduced over the last couple of years. The glitchy beats, lean funk guitars and modulating basslines of A Brain In A Bottle triggered a flickering display of yellow orbs. The ever fidgety Yorke had a bit of a boogie, while Godrich kept the bass bouncing just enough for a shoulder shimmy, while distorted lines of colour splashed across the screens.

The marriage of layered sounds and visuals was more pleasing than powerful, the flintiness of some of the music contrasting with the pretty patterns. The tech funk of Black Swan was accompanied by colourful geometric designs, primary colours streaked across the screen to the drum’n’bass of The Clock and black ink bled against the expansive trancey mantra Two Feet Off The Ground. Yorke was immersed and exultant as the concert drew to a heightened close against an angry red backdrop, before returning in the calm after the electrical storm to play recent Radiohead ballad Glass Eyes.