Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco waltzed into Temple University’s Liacouras Center last night to begin the North American Atoms for Peace tour. It was no ordinary night for rock: you had members of the three “R’s” – Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and R.E.M. – joining forces. It was also not ordinary since Philadelphia failed to show these music luminaries the respect they deserved.
The venue was far from capacity – and only half of the University’s basketball arena was used in the first place – with the general admission floor not sold out and the top sections being a semi-barren wasteland. And the clientele who did come did not seem to understand an encore break – scores left after the first encore when it should have been quite obvious Yorke and company were about to return and lay down some more serious alternative beats. Despite the negatives, Atoms for Peace played a solid and impressive set, drawing on their album, Yorke’s solo album The Eraser, and a few other choice cuts, like Radiohead’s “Paperbag Writer” and UNKLE’s “Rabbit in Your Headlights.”
Yorke and Flea bounced about the stage with their childlike abandon aided by the one-two percussive punch of Waronker and Refosco and the keys and strings of Godrich. And with it being a Yorke-led band, the lighting was bound to amaze with its rich reds, blues, and greens bathing the electronica and rock amalgam with a touch of otherworldliness. And as the show came to a close with a stunning combo of “Atoms for Peace” and “Black Swan,” during which Flea brandished a Temple basketball jersey to cover his skirt/kilt apparel from earlier, the power of the message implied in the band’s title comes into clear focus: amongst the turmoil and din of the everyday, one will find a unifying beat of peace. The future cities to be visited will hopefully be more open and understanding for this experience than our own Philadelphia.