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Radiohead
Live @ Hutchinson Field, Chicago, IL
By August Forte, St@tic
(more articles from this author)
2001-08-19
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By the time Radiohead exited the stage after a galvanizing two hour set, a few things were very clear to the nearly 30,000 fans in attendance. Foremost was the shared perception that something quite special had been witnessed---something that would fuel conversation for days to come. There were so many near-perfect components to be weighed: the superior sound, the spirited performance, and perhaps most surprisingly, the band's sheer audacity in recreating experimental/electronic numbers like "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box" and "Everything in its Right Place" for a live setting.

While pages could be writ on these elements alone, it is possibly more intriguing to address (with equal measures of pride and relief) the overall harmony of the event. If not for the collaborative spirit of everyone involved---the band, the concert organizers, the city of Chicago, and the fans---this could have easily been a disaster.

Before all other factors could be addressed, there was the mystery of where and under what circumstances Radiohead would perform when the show was announced a few months back. Certainly then Grant Park, the construction zone jewel of the city, was an early contender. When tickets finally went on sale Saturday, June 16, however, Arvey Field was listed as the designated location. Arvey Field? For the lucky ticket holders (the show sold out in a matter of minutes), there was already reason for concern: where is this place? How do I get there? Will the band play under the stars or under the folds of a giant circus tent as had been rumored? Within a month these very concerns would be replaced when the show was moved to Hutchinson Field, yet another untested outdoor venue at the south end of Grant Park. At least more tickets were released---good news for fans not already holding, but frustrating for those who shelled out big bucks to brokers.

In the days before August 1, we had a concrete and easy-to-access location but still new questions arose. Was the city prepared for the tens of thousands about to converge? After all, the event was to fall at the end of rush hour on a Wednesday. Dissenters warned of a logistical nightmare. In others words, expect the worst...and did we happen to mention that show day will be the hottest, muggiest day of the entire year? Great.

An hour before the show is to start, the heat is a factor, but the location does offer some relief in its proximity to Lake Michigan---a gentle breeze makes things almost bearable. The fans are ushered in quickly and told that they can keep one factory sealed bottle of water, despite the conflicting reports in the local papers. The gates are well staffed, and things proceed smoothly---no pat downs, just a quick swipe of the metal detector before tickets are torn.

Once inside, there is nothing left but the wait. Tickets are purchased and redeemed for food and drink (no alcohol will be served; a good thing given the crowd size and temperature) as the strategically minded jockey for position. Openers The Beta Band turn in a solid if sound-marred performance. Kid Koala, so impressive recently with Deltron 3030, follows with a forgettable (and extremely short) DJ set, but still expectations are high for the celebrated headliners as the Kid's unimpressive din is replaced by the sultry sounds of The Ink Spots and other 30s era vocal groups over the PA.

And then, with little pretense Radiohead takes the stage and delivers the best live performance of the year.


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