Radiohead's opening night headline gig at Coachella 2017 – review

Lanre Bakare in Indio, California
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke performing at Coachella on Friday. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella

Radiohead’s headline slot on the opening night of Coachella was blighted by technical difficulties that forced the band to leave the stage multiple times as the event’s sound engineers tried to solve the problems.

The band’s short warm-up run ahead of their Friday night headline slot had been an up-and-down affair as well. Reviewers mainly opined about a band brimming with energy and putting on a show for their hardcore fans, with A Moon Shaped Pool dominating the set list, while they found little room for their biggest-selling singles.

Radiohead have also been the subject of some strange remarks recently, with Gene Simmons blaming the band for the death of rock’n’roll, and one outlet taking the decision to suggest drink pairings for their music. (If you’re wondering, apparently High and Dry goes down really well with a bloody mary.)

On Friday night, things started off smoothly enough with Daydreaming, the otherworldly single from A Moon Shaped Pool. That was followed by another new song, Desert Island Disk, which went well, and the crowd warmed after a somewhat sombre start.

The problems started when the band played Ful Stop, with the distorted bassline of the song appearing to be too much for the speakers to deal with. At first the PA system let out a series of bleeps and bloops, before a louder sound saw it give out completely while the band played on seemingly oblivious to the fact they could no longer be heard by the majority of the crowd.

Thom Yorke put it down to “fucking aliens”, but the problems continued. After OK Computer opener Airbag, the band went into 15 Step. After a minute of the track, the sound cut completely again. This time the audience responded with a ripple of applause that grew until the song ended and the band left the stage with Ed O’Brien signalling that they would be back.

Five minutes later they were, launching into The National Anthem. Fittingly, that was followed by Let Down, when once again the sound cut and the band had to leave the stage. There was a small amount of applause but a louder gasp as any flow in the set was lost. The change in mood was captured by O’Brien, who walked off with his hands clasped together as if in prayer, or perhaps asking for forgiveness.

Jonny Greenwood on stage. Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images

But there is very little a band can do about problems such as those Radiohead faced. They are the kind of technical errors rarely seen on stages as big as this, but for an event that claims to be one of the world’s biggest music festivals, it is inexcusable.

After another five minutes of tinkering and on-stage shuffling, the band returned to play Street Spirit (Fade Out), and the ghost in the machine appeared to have been exorcised. Emphatic versions of Everything in its Right Place and There, There followed, the band showing why they are still in the ascendancy after 30 years of making music together.

In the second half of the set, Yorke seemed more composed and confident. The rest of the band, including Jonny Greenwood, who hadn’t stopped thrashing at his guitar regardless of whether he could be heard, seemed more at ease and renditions of Idioteque and Nude were stirring. The earlier issues were a distant memory by the time the group played Creep, the song that made them a known entity in North America.

For the encore they played You and Whose Army Karma Police and No Surprises, as well as Paranoid Android, a song split into two differing sections – a fitting end to a headline slot that almost ended before it really began.

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