Hail to the Thieves

Last week we received a long-awaited announcement from Radiohead regarding their current King of Limbs world tour: The UK dates.

After the arrival of the fairly unsatisfying The King of Limbs, the idea of catching Radiohead back on the live stage was something of a lifeline. Radiohead have often amazed me with their live interpretations of their material, and the prospect of seeing them perform songs from The King of Limbs was actually more exciting to me than listening to the record itself.

I couldn’t help but feel shortchanged with The King of the Limbs. Arriving a staggering four years behind their previous work, 2007’s sublime In Rainbows, The King of Limbs contained just eight minimal tracks, effectively little more than two eps of material for a high price, and a short return.

Unlike the In Rainbows experiment, whereby fans had the option of choice in regards to payment, The King of Limbs was touted somewhat differently. In two words; pay up! Fair play to them, they tried it once, they don’t owe us the same treatment twice. For the record, I did pay for In Rainbows. I have no qualms paying for music. Especially new material from my favourite band. Something that never irked me before, until now.

Just as In Rainbows before it, The King of Limbs was released as a ‘special edition’ cd and vinyl package. This time round it also contained a ‘newspaper’ and a selection of stickers, intended to resemble all the unneccessary junk that falls from Sunday newspaper supplements. Inspired commentary on today’s press or an attempt to fill out fans expectations of value for money? I’m leaning toward the latter.

Arguably, at least half the tracks from The King of Limbs are of  a lower quality to their previous work, and taking the length of time of it’s taken to record, as well as the short length of the record itself, it is hard for the fan to feel that all is well in the Radiohead camp. This isn’t forgetting how high Radiohead have the set the bar for themselves. I initially didn’t take to 2000’s Kid A either, a record which is now so ingrained into my conscience that to knock it would be to knock part of myself. Repeated listens of Kid A bore plentiful reward. Hidden textures and melodies would reveal themselves, forgiveness for its lack of guitars and anthemic choruses became more forthcoming.

Similarly to Kid A, the songs of The King of Limbs are heavily indebted to the studio. But unlike Kid A, it doesn’t feel like a group effort. It’s hard for me to pick out any one strong ‘band’ performance at all. Upon the first few listens I actually struggled to imagine what input any of the band other than Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood may have actually had. And this is why the idea of seeing them play it live appealed.

Earlier songs such as Kid A, Like Spinning Plates and The Gloaming were also fruits of Radiohead’s penchant for the studio. Songs which at first were trying and unintelligible were transformed in the live arena, and I relished the possibility of seeing Radiohead treat the songs from The King of Limbs in the same manner.

It is common knowledge that the band concern themselves with climate change, as they strive to keep the jet setting carbon emissions of touring to a bare minimum. Based on the current details of the tour which sees the band take in North America, Europe, Australasia, Japan,  and Europe we assumed that UK gigs would be few and far between. How right we were.

Two shows were originally announced for the UK; the MEN in Manchester and the o2 in London. Demand has since seen an extra date at the o2 added, but at what price? £71.50 to be precise.

I have to state now that I have not tried to get tickets for these shows myself. I initially heard of starting prices of £65 plus booking fees of £13 and balked at the thought. It’s just a ridiculous amount for a concert and it has put me off.

I’m an obsessive Radiohead fan, no two ways about it. I have seen them countless times and travelled far and wide in order to do so. But the asking price was never set as high as this. When I first saw Radiohead back in September 2000 tickets were £25. At the time I thought that was a lot of money, but in hindsight, a perfectly reasonable amount to see my favourite band deliver such a great performance.

The following summer of 2001 saw them play a rapturous outdoor homecoming show in Oxford, their only UK date of the year, for a paltry £27.50. This was a highly anticipated concert. Radiohead had released number 1 albums on both sides of the Atlantic and as a live unit they were firing on all cylinders. They were returning to Oxford as a mark of respect and to give something back. To mark the occasion they were supported by a phenomenal list of acts including Supergrass, Sigur Ros and Beck. If a gig of that magnitude was under 30 quid 11 years ago, I dread to think how much it would cost today.

I appreciate that as time goes on, inflation rises and prices go up. The appeal for live music has also increased over the years which has resulted in higher demand for gigs such as these. Higher demand, higher prices. All well and good, but is it worth it?In 2003 I saw Radiohead play the Manchester Evening News Arena, one of the two venues of which they will playing later this year and unfortunately it wasn’t a patch on the other Radiohead shows that I have seen. There was no intimacy, no USP. Tickets back then were £33 before any additional fees. The same show less than ten years later costs more than double. I certainly don’t earn double the wage. It just doesn’t add up.

There is redeemable feature on this tour however, and that is the band’s honourable attempt to prevent ticket touting. This time they are selling ‘paperless’ tickets, meaning attendees must bring identification and their payment card to gain entry. This, in theory, will limit the chances of tickets being sold for ridiculously inflated prices on the likes of ebay and other trading websites.

I’ve long been against the reselling of concert tickets by touts. I refuse to pay hundreds for something that cost a third less at face value, and fair play to Radiohead, they have tried to eliminate this. But by assuming that the majority of concert goers would normally give in to touts in the first place, by starting the bidding at £65 a ticket, Radiohead are second guessing their own fanbase. And as much as I would love to see them again, I am going to say no. Give up the ghost.

One thought on “Hail to the Thieves

  1. Good stuff Motty. You need to set up a subscribe thingy so new posts will appear by mail! Cliff Richard my arse!


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