It takes a uniquely unpredictable and innovative artist in order to successfully tour a solo album four years after its release with a band created so recently that it was without a formal name for most of its existence. Having already fronted one of the most revered and influential bands in the world (Radiohead, if you’re clueless), Thom Yorke proved more inimitable than ever last night with the New York debut of his new band, Atoms for Peace, at the Roseland Ballroom.
To recreate the largely electronic 2006 release, The Eraser, in a live setting, Yorke joined forces with bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, producer Nigel Godrich (The Eraser, Radiohead, et al) on keyboards and guitar, Forro in the Darks percussionist Mauro Refosco, and drummer Joey Waronker. Despite sharing both a frontman and a penchant for the gloomy and abstract with Radiohead, Atoms for Peace proved to be a fundamentally different band at their New York debut as each member brought to life a different aspect of Yorkes vision of a dance act. After having already reinvented the wheel of what it is to be a rock band, Yorke gave the world a dance act like no other with Atoms for Peace.
As the “supergroup” performed The Eraser in its entirety during the first half of their set, they transformed the dubstep-influenced album into something new and alluring. With Refoscos tribal beats and Fleas funky bass, all the songs off the 2006 effort, including the apocalyptic piano ballad Cymbal Rush, demanded from even the most exhausted and rhythmically-challenged bodies a physical response to the infectious groove.
Following the performance of The Eraser, however, Yorke returned alone to the stage to debut a new song on the guitar with some trademark self-deprecation as he stated: I dont know if youve noticed, Ive only got one trick on the guitar now and Ill stop if it gets boring. The currently untitled new song proved to be a gorgeously serene break and contrast to the previous frenetic 45 minutes. Shortly following, Yorke returned to the piano for The Daily Mail and Everything in its Right Place, the first Radiohead song of the night.
After Yorkes three song solo set, the rest of Atoms for Peace returned to the stage for a brief four-song set, beginning with the Radiohead obscurity Paperbag Writer, which showcased the specific talents of each band member so naturally that it instead felt like it had always been an Atoms for Peace song. In actuality, the first and only original composition by new group to surface was Judge, Jury and Executioner”. Closing out the night with Yorkes The Hollow Earth and Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses, Atoms for Peace continued the trend of sounding like a band that had been performing and composing together for years rather than months.
With an artist as physical as Thom Yorke, who seemed to be in a silent dance-off with Flea throughout the night, a further exploration and reinvention of the world of dance should have been expected. However, the magic of Yorke is that every surprise and innovation feels completely natural and inevitable in retrospect.
Atoms For Peace
And It Rained All Night
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The Daily Mail (Thom solo)
Everything In Its Right Place (Thom solo)
Judge. Jury. Executioner.
Pulled Apart by Horses