Sorry, that was a belated April Fool’s joke. What Yorke and his Atoms for Peace did actually perform when they breezed into the Citi Wang on Thursday night was a belated advertisement for his 2006 solo album, “The Eraser,” with a few Radiohead obscurities tucked into the set at the end as his part of an unspoken good faith agreement.
Walking onto the stage with a wave and a squint into the crowd like he just woke up, Yorke approached the album like an exercise regimen he was resolute on taking up again, recreating the nine-song tracklist exactly. The band was right-on, giving more depth to the four-year-old album. The ensemble included long-term Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich on guitars and keys, drummer Joey Waronker and a guy named Mauro Refosco, who played instruments so exotic-looking that they occasionally crossed the border from “What is that awesome thing?” into “Now you’re just showing off.” Oh, and the band also featured a bassist with blue hair who looked and moved a lot like Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, but without the bass-slapping vitruosity.
Hang on a sec, reader … Oh, that was Flea?! … Wow, you don’t say! … Well homeboy certainly pulled in the reins. He even let Yorke have the spotlight as the most tribal dancer onstage.
And boy did Yorke move! He let the notes pass through his body like a medium, translating the sounds into spastic primal movements.
But it wasn’t until the song that gave his band their name, “Atoms for Peace” that Yorke really let that mellifluous voice of his flow. As he sang “I want you to get out and make it work,” in a waterslide of a melody, it was both a reminder and a tease that, “Oh yeah, this is the guy who has sang some incredibly moving simpler songs that he will never ever stoop down to play tonight.”
A line from that song was the most telling: “No more talk about the old days, it’s time for something great.”
For the remainder of the show it was tough to shake the notion that even though the album the band played in full was a few years old, Thom Yorke is still light years ahead of us. After the band finished the album, Yorke came out alone and said, “This one’s for Jonny,” setting up hopes that the song, called “Present Tense” will be a new Radiohead song and the Jonny in question is that band’s co-head Jonny Greenwood.
Yorke also gave the die-hards the Radiohead rarities “Paperbag Writer” and “Like Spinning Plates,” and the band played a few new songs they had been working on, consistent with the restrained spooky funk style they had played for most of the evening.
Although more accessible Radiohead songs would have been a treat, that is not how it works with this guy. Seeing Thom Yorke in concert is not an opportunity to hear your favorite song played back to you live as much as a chance to see what your favorite song might be in a few years.