RADIOHEAD, at the Air Canada Centre's Sears Theatre, October 17. Tickets: $48.50. Attendance: 5,500. Rating: NNNN
For a band who insist that playing live all but destroyed them, Radiohead have rarely looked happier than they did onstage Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.
Playing just three live dates in North America during the week your record hits number one will do that to you. Whether it will still be all smiles and jokes when Radiohead return for a full tour next summer remains to be seen, but for the time being they look like they're enjoying being a rock band again.
That goes well beyond facial expressions. What was most striking about Tuesday's remarkable two-hour set was how much like themselves Radiohead sounded. Though their new Kid A disc works to strip away the familiar, in concert the band brought the guitars back out and sounded more like classic Radiohead.
Not that there weren't diversions. How To Disappear Completely was outfitted with a menacing bass rumble, and Everything In Its Right Place was turned into a thumping house song, with Jonny Greenwood cutting up samples of Thom Yorke's voice and the singer himself prancing around to the beat like an even more rhythmically challenged Ed Grimley.
Even more outside were the handful of songs from Kid A's successor, due in May. You And Whose Army was almost a light cabaret number, with Yorke pounding away on piano, while Dollars And Cents throbbed around Colin Greenwood's driving bass and Yorke's Liam Gallagherish tambourine thrashing.
Balanced with fierce versions of Radiohead standards like Just, Talk Show Host and Lucky, the set had extraordinary energy and confidence, the feel of a band at its peak.
Perhaps that brush with death was just what they needed.