All surprises – my fantasy 2017 Radiohead setlist
From firm classics to previously discarded b-sides – these songs would make up the perfect Radiohead gig
Every Radiohead gig is different. From one show to the next, no setlist remains the same. That’s partly why nearly three decades since forming, the Oxford giants remain so in-demand as a live act. Classic mid-’90s singles share space with previously discarded B-sides that fans never thought they’d hear again. Jonny Greenwood recently told Adam Buxton: “[Our crew] would prefer it to be the same each night… We tend to find that some songs suddenly don’t sound very good to our ears and then we just leave them off for a while. We left ‘No Surprises’ off for a while but it’s got a swagger to it now.” Not only does this unpredictability keep things fresh for the band, it gives fans a reason to believe the show they’ve just witnessed was a unique experience.
According to guitarist Ed O’Brien, the band rehearsed over 60 songs for their latest ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ tour. They’ve been changing things up on each night of their 2017 stint, performing ‘The Tourist’ for the first time in years, as well as giving rare outings to fan favourites ‘Where I End And You Begin’ and ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’.
They’re about to play some of their biggest shows in years, including Coachella and Glastonbury 2017, but just about every song from their vast back-catalogue looks capable of making an appearance. On the basis that the majority of their shows contain 25 songs, here’s my ultimate Radiohead setlist:
The ‘OK Computer’ highlight opened their historic debut Glastonbury headline set in 1997. Who to say they can’t do the same in 2017, 20 years on?
During their ‘In Rainbows’ tour, this worked magic as a sky-reaching, saw-toothed beast – usually landing in the top half of their sets. Somehow, it’s become even more grizzly since 2007.
‘The National Anthem’
Extra request: if this could be played alongside a 20-part horn section that would be just lovely. Cheers. The more deranged trumpets the merrier.
‘Weird Fishes / Arpeggi’
A tender ‘In Rainbows’ highlight that sounded incredible before it was even released, this has remained a firm fan favourite ever since.
Few songs inspire collective silence quite like ‘Daydreaming’. Pretty much the only time you can get 100,000 people in a field to keep schtum.
If any old, unloved gem deserves an outing, it should be the gorgeous ‘Fog’. The track appears as part of Radiohead’s 2001 ‘Knives Out’ EP, and it’s been played just three times in the last decade.
‘Like Spinning Plates’
Listen to the haunting, piano-only version of this normally glitchy electronic track and then try claiming it doesn’t deserve a spot here.
Back to ‘In Rainbows’, a record that’s gone way beyond its pay-what-you-like novelty. ‘Reckoner’ is arguably the standout track – no Radiohead set should go without it.
‘2 + 2 = 5’
For anyone drifting off, hearing Thom Yorke shriek “You have not been paying attention!” should do the trick.
2011’s ‘The King of Limbs’ isn’t Radiohead’s most essential work, but thanks to Clive Deamer – the band’s second drummer who joins them on the road – songs from that record can become wild, percussive beasts. None more so than ‘Bloom’.
Anything capable of prompting Yorke’s famous, crazed dance moves needs to be in a setlist.
Nothing comes close to Yorke’s recorded vocal on this ‘OK Computer’ highlight, but a live rendition runs a close second.
Usually reserved for an encore, this six-and-a-half-minute beast is their second most regular live fixture, behind ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’.
One of Radiohead’s greatest b-sides, somehow ‘Staircase’ never wound up on ‘The King of Limbs’. It deserves a space here.
Because when else can you see Jonny Greenwood applying his sawtoothed, aggressive guitar playing-style to a giant thumping drum?
Radiohead’s classic second album only gets one mention in this ultimate setlist. Harsh, but there are hundreds of songs to choose from.
‘A Moon Shaped Pool’’s most fidgety, chopped-up number. Also capable of inspiring a dour singalong of “Broken hearts, make it rain!”
‘Exit Music (for a Film)’
First soundtracking Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ adaptation, this went on to become ‘OK Computer’’s bleak centerpoint. A firm live favourite, it’s still only made 2 appearances so far in 2017.
‘Everything in Its Right Place’
Every unforgettable Radiohead show needs its fair share of ‘Kid A’, especially when the record’s opening track stands alongside the record’s highlight…
Nothing beats this being played back-to-back with ‘Everything in Its Right Place’, especially at the tailend of a Radiohead set. By this point, Yorke’s dancing has reached full delirium, fans are replicating his manic arm gestures, and everything’s gone loco.
A gloomy, mournful work of beauty once dubbed by guitarist Ed O’Brien as “the best song we’ve recorded,” it fits at the beginning of the set’s opening encore.
One of many Radiohead songs that would benefit from a string section when played live – highlights from ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ especially – imagine this backed by an orchestra. First played in 1998, it went on to become ‘In Rainbows’’ jaw-dropping peak. It’s a song that threatens to outlive the band.
In terms of encores, it’s hard to argue against the classics. In recent years, ‘Karma Police’ has taken on a new life. Yorke can often be found repeating the “For a minute there / I lost myself” line with nothing but an acoustic guitar, until a screaming crowd sings louder than the frontman.
Rumours that they dislike their most famous song are wildly overstated. ‘Creep’ was played over 100 times in 2016, with Yorke and co. fully embracing their breakthrough single. It’s the perfect set closer – capturing the moment Radiohead hit liftoff in the early 90’s and never looked back.
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