For my second gig ever, I feel slightly more prepared. I have a ticket and I’ve come dressed for the occasion in my band T-shirt and a floppy black cap that keeps my hair out of my face. The venue is in the same building as the last show, but this time it’s in the larger downstairs auditorium rather than just the union bar. K and I arrive at the time stated on the ticket. Through the walls of the Union we can hear someone sound checking a guitar riff. I later realised it was David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel.
Inside we go straight to a spot in the middle at the front of the stage. There are three bands on the bill; the first is Superstar, who might have been great, but I’m unfamiliar with their tunes and I’m impatient for the main act. Second on are Strangelove, a band have briefly shown up on my radar from reading fanzines but I’m not yet acquainted with their melodramatic indie and they seem too thin and arty, all in all a bit too affected.
In the corner of my eye I keep seeing a very pale looking, smallish man at the side of the room near the bar. His hair is so blond I can’t help but notice that it is Thom. I want to go across and speak to him, he seems to be talking to people at the bar but if I move now I’ll lose my place at the front. The room is full by the time Radiohead take the stage at around 10pm. From the opening ‘Benz’, their superiority over the other bands is obvious.
“Wish it was the ’60s,” sings Thom. This song is not on the album and they’re starting the show with it. But they follow it with You, and most of the rest of Pablo Honey. Vegetable, Ripcord, Lurgee, Inside My Head, Prove Yourself – Is that the sound of people singing along?
Stop Whispering is a meaner song live than it is on record and when Thom screams “Fuck You” at the top of his voice at as it builds up to a finish, it should be a cringeworthy moment but somehow, in the intensity of the performance, it isn’t.
They perform Banana Co from the new EP. It’s got a quiet/loud dynamic that I really like. Thom swigs from a beer throughout the show and hands out several cans to the audience.
Thom swaps guitars between almost every song ,and when he performs Creep without one he jettisons the mic stand, rolls on the floor and howls. He ends up standing on the monitors to stare into the crowd as he delivers the final long note.
Whatever it is he’s got, call it stage presence or charisma, whatever it is, he’s got a lot of it. I want to look at the rest of the band to see what they’re playing but I find that I can’t take my eyes off the front man. He’s wearing a sort of yellowish shirt with a big collar, whenever he jumps up we get a glimpse of belly button. A lone stage diver gets hurled back into the throng rather harshly by an over zealous Crusty bouncer who is at the other side of the barrier in front of us and we have to duck to avoid getting hit.
They end on Pop Is Dead – but come back on to do an encore of Blow Out. For some reason the Nottingham audience uses the football terrace chant of “You Reds” to fill the room with noise, which bewilders Thom. By the end, all three guitarists are banging their guitars with their hands, and Jonny looks like he’s hurt himself.
My ears are ringing as the hall clears.