During their show at Secret Solstice it was impossible to separate their performance from the politics of today
As news filtered through that a Radiohead listening party had been attacked in Istanbul, Thom Yorke was in onstage at Secret Solstice in Reykjavik midway through “My Iron Lung”, a song written over two decades ago that last night resonated deeper than ever. “We are losing it, can’t you tell?”
The world has long been violent, but our ability to view our eternal, inevitable implosions on a 24 hour loop remains relatively new and our radical advances in technology and communication are seemingly moving faster than our behavioural evolution.
This week has cast a numbness over British and American society – 49 murdered in a gay club in Orlando, a (by all accounts) brilliant Labour MP shot dead, while lurking over these horrific lightning strikes lie the ominous black clouds of Nigel Farage stood in front of a poster reminiscent of Nazi propaganda or Donald Trump bellowing about banning Muslims.
It’s never been easier to feel helpless and the past seven days have drifted past, beige and blurry, carrying with them an irrevocable sense of inconsequence, a real seriously, what the fuck are we doing, can we all take some time away to reflect on the savage whirlpool we’re going round and round in period of time.
When Radiohead released A Moon Shaped Pool, I questioned whether they had anything left to say, but as I stood in the crowd in Reykjavik surrounded by Icelanders, a Briton unnerved by the concept of leaving the EU, they felt more relevant than ever.
They opened with the first five tracks from their latest record, with first single “Burn The Witch” decoded as a nod to Trump’s aggressive rise in popularity and “Daydreaming” just something that perhaps we’ve all been doing too much of. There was also relevance to be found in beginning such a large part of the set with their new “anti-anthemic” material, a reminder that things must change, must evolve, just like our outlooks and attitudes.
Yorke’s ability to capture a brooding, universal sense of unease is a rare gift and the second half of the set’s lyrical themes almost felt uncanny given the current political climate.
We’re not scaremongering this is really happening
Ice age coming ice age coming
You’re not paying attention
When I am king you will be first against the wall
We are accidents waiting to happen
After Jo Cox was shot, some smalltime far-right groups attributed her death to the “breaking point” that Nigel Farage so proudly advertises, a mere inevitability. As Thom Yorke walked away from the microphone to let 11,000 people sing “this is what you’ll get if you mess with us” it was impossible not to be reminded of violent right-wing rhetoric that exists in pictures of Britain First training with knives or defending their right to invade halal slaughterhouses in strange video statements.
Aside from a thematic connection to a deplorable zeitgeist, Radiohead remain an absolutely mindblowing rock band and it was – personally – important to see something beautiful after a week in which we reached such a nadir. In a time of numerous alarms but perhaps no surprises, they proved the perfect antidote (and companion) to the apocalypse of now, a beam of light piercing the horror, the horror, the horror.