Oxford’s Radiohead put on an extraordinary sound and light show for approximately 11,000 die-hard fans who came from all over Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Austria for the final leg of their Italian tour (after Rome, Florence and Bologna) at the magnificent Villa Manin located on the outskirts of Udine.
There on stage were lead singer Thom Yorke (with a new look, long hair) and fellow musicians Ed O’Brian on rhythm guitar, brothers Jonny and Colin Greenwood on guitar and bass guitar respectively and both Phil Selway and additional musician Clive Dreamer on drums. Yorke had been seen some hours before the concert walking around the grounds of the historic Villa Manin (the venue once hosted for one night Napoleon Bonaparte. This small historical fact is what also attracts many artists to the Villa Manin, such as Iron Maiden, R.E.M., Motorhead and other great bands).
The evening started off on a rather negative note as a massive downpour hit the venue. The stage itself was very, very impressive (pretty huge actually), and for those photographers covering the show from right underneath the band’s feet, one couldn’t help but think of the tragedy that hit Radiohead in June of this year in Toronto when the stage came down just before that show, killing the band’s drum technician, Scott Johnson (the band was to have actually played at the Villa Manin on July 4th of this year but cancelled that show out of respect for Johnson and the grief that they had to go through because of that tragedy).
But luckily, the magical powers of Yorke and Co. prevailed as the clouds and rain moved on and the rest of the evening was enjoyed by fans during the very last warm days of summer.
Always sensitive to environmental issues, the band’s visual designer, Andy Watson, after having been in a supermarket and after having seen rows upon rows of bottled water, convinced the band to use as a stage backdrop recycled plastic bottles. Thirteen movable screens were also used over the stage in order to catch the band’s every single note and movement. The final effect was indeed quite beautiful to see.
Greenpeace was also involved during the band’s worthy environmental cause with their own “Save The Artic” initiative (a large stuffed polar bear was on hand to greet fans and to make then aware of the melting North Pole). No doubt very worthy causes indeed, but what to say about all the people who drove to the venue and were also trucked in by massive tour buses from abroad (gas emissions?), or the fact that the band does use guitars, which are after all made of wood (on this issue AC/DC was once confronted with the fact that they didn’t do benefit concerts such as Sting, who used to also sing in order to save the forests of the Amazon. Guitarist Angus Young answered in the following and very simple manner: “How can I do benefit concerts to save forests when ALL my guitars are made of wood”!). Indeed a wise man Angus Young. And then there was the VERY large semi-truck parked right next to the stage, the very same one used to transport the four-story tall stage. Not much pollution there moving that large semi around, right?
Radiohead’s set-list was also quite impressive: some 25 songs for more than 2 hours worth of music (one song that the band played during their first concert in Rome was dedicated to Italy’s former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who appears poised to make yet another return to the world of Italian politics).
All-in-all, for all those present the evening had begun on a rather negative note but ended, thanks to the magic of Radiohead’s wonderful music, with a ray of sunshine.