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Leonard Cohen - Victoria Park, London, 26/6/2008

  by Mark Rowland

published: 31 / 7 / 2008

Leonard Cohen - Victoria Park, London, 26/6/2008


At a gig at London's Victoria Park to promote their 'In Rainbows' album, Mark Rowland watches Radiohead play an enthusiastic, eco-friendly set to an ecstatic crowd

A few weeks after Radiohead's Victoria Park gigs at the end of June, we got an e-mail from the Radiohead website. “Please fill out this questionnaire about your travel arrangements to the venue,” it said. “And we'll give you a live track recorded during their tour.” The questionnaire turned out to be a carbon calculator for our journey to and from the venue – we were quite good, apparently. This sums up the overall mood of the band's London concerts. Merch stands sell T-shirts made of recycled materials, charities man stalls around the site and walk among the crowd. Even the lighting is eco friendly - an impressive LED set-up, like giant, precarious icicles dangling above the stage. After a long wait in the sun (doors opened at 4, with the bands starting at 7.30), Bat For Lashes take to the stage. Although the band is really Natasha Khan, the band create some very nice folky Bjork sounds, with Khan switching between several instruments spread across the stage. The songs themselves are lovely, elegant and complex, but Khan's lyrics occasionally drift into clumsy fairy-folk territory. The strength of her tunes prevents this from grating, however, and the hippyish vibe soundtracks the fading summer sun nicely. Most people's excitement, however, is held over for Radiohead. When one roadie notices that a screw has come loose from one of the 'icicles', we briefly wonder if this is the night we will see a least one Radiohead member smooshed by a ton of metal and glass. Luckily, this was not the case. Radiohead open with 'Reckoner' off their latest album, 'In Rainbows', to an ecstatic reception from the crowd. Next song '15 Steps' gets an even better response, and the band build momentum from there. Every song from 'In Rainbows' makes an appearance throughout the set, as well as tracks from their previous four albums. Hearing 'Hail to the Thief' tracks live reminds you how relatively underrated the album is, especially when the band unleash a rocked-up version of 'Myxomatosis'. The crowd is clearly made up of rabid fans, which heightens the sense of community in the park, although it is not without its minor irritations – the odd tuneless wail can be heard during the band's quieter moments, though they are easily forgiven. As the set progresses, the band break out more of their 'hits', although not all can really be described as such by the non-Radiohead speaking world. 'Kid A's 'Everything in Its Right Place' builds to a crescendo and 'Idioteque', from the same album, gets people dancing. A set highlight is 'Karma Police' from 'Ok Computer', which is beautifully performed and encourages the most passionate crowd participation, as almost everyone joins in as Thom Yorke sings “For a minute there/I lost myself”. In a poignant moment between encores, the crowd reprise this refrain, a warmth that is reciprocated by the band, who seem like they're really enjoying themselves. Two 'Bends' tracks, the title track and 'My Iron Lung', make a welcome surprise appearance, as does 'No Surprises', one of their best known songs. Alongside this however, the more obscure 'Bangers and Mash', from the discbox version of 'In Rainbows', keeps us guessing as to what track they'll play next. As the evening draws to a close, Yorke leans into the mike and says “Cool beans” in a silly voice. The band then launch into an exhilarating version of 'Paranoid Android', their indie rock 'Bohemian Rhapsody', ending on a high and leaving the audience hungry for more.

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Leonard Cohen - Victoria Park, London, 26/6/2008

Leonard Cohen - Victoria Park, London, 26/6/2008

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