Music review: The Smile, Armadillo, Glasgow

Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner turned the Armadillo into a sonic playground for this Glasgow show, writes Fiona Shepherd

The Smile, Armadillo, Glasgow ****

It has been eight years since Radiohead last released a new album – a long time even by their famously exacting standards. Perhaps frontman Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood are just having too much fun with their modern prog band The Smile, formed in lockdown with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner.

Fun is a relative concept but this show was certainly a sonic playground, a zone in which to indulge musical curiosity with different time signatures, guitar effects, vocal mantras, and with jazz multi-instrumentalist Robert Stillman along for the ride. Yorke cannot help but be melodic and his vocals were a vulnerable joy as always, but it might be pushing it to call these pieces songs.

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The audience initially reacted with rigid respect to the fragile and mellow Wall of Eyes, to Yorke’s proggy basslines, Skinner’s loose-limbed jazz patterns and Greenwood’s needling guitar on The Opposite, to the mesmeric singing and gamelan-like keyboards of Speech Bubbles, the soothing flow of Instant Psalm and the Saharan rock vibes of Colours Fly.

A quasi-improvisatory interlude with Greenwood bowing his guitar and Yorke intoning breathily resolved into the chunkier form of A Hairdryer. Waving A White Flag was pure analogue synthfest and Thin Thing acquired a live urgency, with Yorke throwing Elvis moves and delivering choppy vocals.

If Yorke is dancing, it can’t be all serious. The audience were playfully emboldened as he swaggered in the footlights on new song Don’t Get Me Started, a set highlight with deep frequencies, fuzz bassline and taut drumming, and dedicated Friend of a Friend to Liz Truss “and her spectacular period in office”.

“All that money, where did it go?” indeed.

The SmileThe Smile
The Smile

The fans heckled their adoration as Greenwood took up the cello during an encore which journeyed from groovy to spiky to intimate, a microcosm of the main set which had climaxed with the epic workout of Bend Hectic.

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