Radiohead on 'The Colbert Report': Way better than Radiohead on SNL?

Comedy Central

“Prepare yourselves, Radiohead. You’re about to meet Televisionface.”

That’s how Stephen Colbert introduced Thom Yorke and his group on Monday night during a very special hour-long episode of The Colbert Report that was almost entirely devoted to the band, and was also “presented by Dr Pepper, except for Radiohead, who present themselves because they’re nobody’s corporate tool.”

Wait… jokes? About the pioneers of “Serious Listening”? Yes, it’s true. Yorke was actually laughing, and the whole group seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves during the show.

Colbert accused the Brits of “stealing American rock jobs,” and when he chided them for their anti-corporate stance by sitting beneath a giant Dr. Pepper sign, Yorke quipped that the soda “tastes like that stuff you get at the dentist to swill your mouth out.”

“Well, Thom,” Colbert replied, “It is a doctor.”

Watching the entire show (which is available in its entirety here), it’s clear that Radiohead are way more comfortable here than they were during their disappointing SNL performance over the weekend. Where they were too cerebral on Saturday night, trying to cram the sweeping keyboard doodles and Hal 9000 bloops of “Lotus Flower” into a short-attention-span time slot, Colbert found them playing actual song-like songs, including “Little By Little,” “Bloom,” and a bluesy piano and horns version of the unreleased favorite “The Daily Mail” that was so warm, they played it beside an actual fireplace.

The night was, as Colbert promised, “a mind-blowing evening for the music nerds.” Of course, he scoffed, “If you were a real fan, you’d be watching this on vinyl.”

Watch a web-only exclusive of Radiohead playing “The National Anthem” (which is mislabeled as “Codex”) on Colbert after the jump.

Read more:
Radiohead drop woozy ‘Lotus Flower’ and ‘Staircase’ on ‘SNL': What did you think?

Radiohead to play ‘historic’ one-hour episode of ‘The Colbert Report,’ two shows at NYC’s Roseland

‘Saturday Night Live’ recap: The return of the king (a.k.a. Alec Baldwin)
Review: Radiohead, The King of Limbs
Dancing Thom Yorke meme meets Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, ‘Black Swan’: Which is your favorite?

Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • Pat

    this was incredible! i loved the whole hour. they seemed completely in their element and I feel that they really enjoyed Colbert’s fun style of doing things. Great hour of tv/music!

    • Color Me Impressed

      They were totally on the whole night! King of Limbs is probably my least favorite Head album, but this performance actually made them enjoyable for the most part. I do wish they would do a US tour though & bring Subterranean Homesick Alien back into their repetoire; thats probably my favorite song of theirs.

      • tour

        they’re going on tour in early 2012…

        but beside that… the show was great and the music… oh the music…. Radiohead constantly prove why they are the best band on this planet

      • Robert

        This PR stunt was a waste of time. I watched it, and I thought Colbert’s yuck yuck jokes were stupid as f_ck. Radiohead were idiots for going on this f-ucking stupid comedy sideshow in the first place, so I don’t entirely blame this on Colbert for being a complete flop. It is 50/50.

      • Alisa

        It\’s just Saturday Night Live\’s way of endorsement. So what? Why does SNL have to be ojvtceibe? They make jokes about whoever they want all the time. The audience knows to take their messages lightly.It is free advertising for Obama, but that\’s OK! Newspapers don\’t go quite as far as SNL but they also endorse candidates.The last couple of candidates Hollywood has endorsed haven\’t won anyway. It\’s a nice plus for those endorsed but there are too many other factors at play that affect voter\’s feelings on candidates.

    • brian

      Agreed, the performance made my night. I also plan on watching reruns.

      • Robert

        It was the lamest thing I have ever seen on TV.

    • Cameron

      These performances turned my wife into a fan, sort of. She still thinks Thom is weird. lol He was a bit twitchy during the interviews.

  • Fritz

    Where does this idea come in that “Lotus Flower” isn’t “song-like”? Criticism of post-Kid A Radiohead leans so heavily on the idea that they’re too bleepy and blorpy but that idea is applied so arbitrarily as to be meaningless. I liked the Colbert performances a lot better than SNL too, but I just think the band sounded better and more relaxed on Colbert; there’s certainly no way that “Bloom” or “The National Anthem” are any more or less “keyboard doodly” or “Hal 9000-y” than “Lotus Flower.”

    • Adam

      Things played on guitars = songs. Things played on synths and computers = apparently not songs. Forget, you know, actually listening to the structure of the song itself and follow this simple template and you’ll understand. I mean, it’s not like it’s 2011 and we’ve expanded our conception of music beyond the traditional notions of guitar-based compositions. Long live rockism!

      • Melissa Maerz

        Hey, I love experimental, electronic Radiohead. I wasn’t trying to argue that album tracks like “Lotus Flower” are any less great (or any more wonky) than “The National Anthem.” I just meant that, when they’re playing on SNL, they have a very short time period to get the song across, and sometimes their longer, jammier songs don’t translate as well. The versions of “Bloom” and “The National Anthem” that they played on Colbert were relatively simpler than their performance on SNL, and I think that’s part of what made the Colbert songs sound better on a TV sound stage.

      • Cookie

        Radiohead are too “blippy” and “blorpy”. They’ve been treading water for a long time. In all honesty, they lost their ability to create “unique” new music BEFORE Kid A. After OK Computer, they were stumped at what to do. So, they jumped on the electronica bandwagon that had already been in progress for nearly 10 years, going back to the early 90s with Aphex Twin. Kid A was just a bunch of lifts of Bjork, Autechre, and the rest of the gang from Warp records. For some reason, there were enough critics around at the time who decided to leave this obvious fact out when they were praising the band as “revolutionary” back in 2000. That’s a pattern that’s been repeated by the numerous college-age critics who grew up being told that OK Computer and Kid A were this generations Sgt Pepper’s and White Album. But yet, for such a “progressive” band, what have they done since then? They’ve just repeated that same formula to deeeeeeaaaaath. There was progress from Pablo Honey to The Bends to OK Computer, to Kid A. But it’s after that that the music just became a mish mash of sounds that they’d already done on one or more of those albums. Ditto for the played out subject matter of the lyrics. The live tour for In Rainbows (the ’06 one, not the ’08 one), like the ’03 tour for Hail to the Thief was a great blend of electronic and organic, but on record they were still stuck sounding like Bjork outtakes. Now, the new record is waaaay more derivative, and unfortunately the live show has finally taken a dive. Colbert was spot on when he commented on Yorke’s age. Not because it was just a funny joke, but because Yorke and the band just haven’t moved forward at all in the past 10 years. He should be doing something far more progressive than he is now. Keyboards and synths were already getting maxed out back in the 1980s, and they no longer automatically equate to “sound of the future” like they once did.

      • Brian

        Cookie, your points are well taken at one level. Yes, the “unique” sound textures of Kid A were not revolutionary by any means (though how they got a rhodes to sound as smooth and clean yet expansive and real as it did on Everything In Its Right Place is beyond me)

        But, and this is the important point, the music is not merely bleeps and bloops ripped off of aphex twin. The harmonic development, and melodic genius of Radiohead translates into any medium, even without the electronica. Check out any number of covers from the Kid A album (such as John Mayers performance of the song Kid A on a guitar), and its plain as day that its the new marriage of harmonic development and electronic sound which distinguished Radiohead’s Kid A from the peeps on Warped Records.

      • Robert

        Hey Cookie.. Guess what? They were all “lifts”.

  • Adam

    ha. The EW music critics haven’t improved at all since yesterday. Bloom is possibly the least song-like (in the traditional sense) and most experimental track on the entire album. Since nobody affiliated with this site seems to have listened to this record before commenting on it, flip it on real quick and you’ll see that Lotus Flower is the most song-like (chorus, hook, etc., unlike Bloom) and closest thing to a single on the record by far.

    The fact of the matter is that they just haven’t mastered that song live, and Thom was way off with the vocal on SNL. But that song, with its restrainted falsetto, is much more difficult to sing than The Daily Mail, Bloom or Little by Little and Thom is just having problems with it.

    Only small complaint with the Colbert performance is that the horns weren’t loud enough in the mix. Other than that, the band sounded great.

  • Boring

    We’re supposed to care about Radiohead in 2011?

    • Ellen Page

      Idiotic troll is idiotic…

      • Nancy

        I completely fell the hell asleep watching this

    • Michael Paige

      You bet. They are still the most musically fertile and
      collective of superb musicians who loosely use the cannon “a band”. They are important, non-corporate, groundbreaking, huge, committed, overflowing with talent and willing to show air mistakes in public, in return their triumphs are the cornerstone upon which great, palpable, inexplicable triumph of the human spirit art flows from…this is explosion forged from the meeting of the spirits, and it shall give us, our children and their grandchildren many years of profundity.

  • victoria johnson

    Radiohead were absolutely brilliant on colbert report…on sat night live, they sounded like they were warming up

  • Angie

    I squealed like a little fangirl when I heard the first notes of the National Anthem. Amazing performances throughout — Little By Little is a ton better live than the album version.

  • woop

    This performances were beautiful, Clive & Phil are sick together.

  • Andy

    I usually don’t watch Colbert but that has changed now. Radiohead were in top shape as well.

    • Nancy

      I want to feed Thom. He looks sickly.

      • Joshua

        YouWannaNoWhatIHateI heard at one point, Radiohead was so sick of this song they refused to play it at their coetnrcs. I can understand getting tired of a song, I get tired of songs too, but I will never tire of this song. I just love it. I can relate to the lyrics and I just love the sound of the song. It’s just so perfect.

  • Kyle

    The Daily Mail sounded stunning and was not expecting TNA. Pitchfork Media were there so I bet they creamed themselves.

  • Nick

    that was easily one of the most entertaining little hours of television I think I’ve ever experienced.. so great!

  • Ross

    Bloom was BEAUTIFUL. The National Anthem was great but the horns weren’t played to their fullest potential like back in SNL 2000/01(?). But poor Ed, is he having a midlife crisis? I mean, with that hair he looks like a member of Duran Duran or something!

  • Dave

    Can’t wait for Radiohead’s Christmas Album!!!

    • Nancy

      Can’t wait for Don Charlies Singing Dogs do Radiohead Covers.

      • Hans M.

        Nancy, goodness! Settle down. So you dislike Radiohead. Don’t rain on the Radiohead fans; you won’t change anyone’s mind here via your snark. Go celebrate your favorite artist (Don Charlie?) elsewhere. You’ll feel better.

      • Nancy

        I think Radiohead sold out, and Colbert is a bore. Don’t put words in my mouth d-bag.

  • patrick

    the King of Limbs has been growing on me, and the material sounded even better live on Colbert, somehow more clear and open, really lends itself to exploring. Sorry I can’t swing into NYC this weekend, I hope I get to hear the material live someday.

    • Lori

      I think In Rainbows was much better than King of Limbs.

      • Radiohead Fan

        sadly enough, I agree

      • Yesi

        Diay que mae pura vida!!!Mae que video me0s loco, ganado de un Wolverine ja ja ja, no en serio el video este0 psiiudchimo!!! Que forma de comerse el pez al principio del video, luego se transforma en el superheroe que salva al mundo de la Ardilla malvada y al final se queda con la chica, espectaculares todos los dibujos que creatividad del que lo hizo, por que hasta la sombra del mae no se pierde.Salu2 de WOLVERINE.

  • Blarls Smarkley

    Great show! Two of my all-time heroes together (Colbert and Yorke). I was in heaven!

  • Justin Adams

    The fact that ANYONE would get upset over one of the greatest bands of ALL time on one of the greatest TV programs of ALL time seriously confounds me to the point of hilarity. God Bless Radiohead and Stephen Colbert and God Bless whoever made this happen :)

    • Alex

      Well said Justin Adams! It was a beautiful, sweet and funny show featuring nothing but LEGENDS (I’m going to add that adorable fake medic to that camp as well). An Emmy/Oscar/Nobel prize to whoever made it happen!

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