One of the best things about liking smaller, independent bands is that when tickets go on sale, it’s usually quite easy to get tickets. Say I wanted to go see a show at the famous Maxwell’s in Hoboken, I would just go to their site, find the show I want to see, click on the “buy tickets” link, put in my credit card information and it would be done. Nice and simple.
When you want to go see Radiohead, it’s a different story. You have the pleasure of dealing with Ticketmaster and the digital barrage when tickets go on sale, which is always a day when it’s utterly inconvenient.
But it’s Radiohead, so you do what you have to do.
It was cool, sunny Saturday morning in March when the Radiohead tickets went on sale for the two shows at Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center. My wife and I had plans to be at friends’ house for brunch by 10:30 which I thought would be no trouble thanks to the painless and futuristic transaction process the internet allows. When the clock struck 10:00am I was ready for battle logged in to my Ticketmaster account on both my phone and iPad. There had been shows scheduled for Thursday and Friday and I was trying to get Friday tickets, since Friday > Thursday. I clicked through all the steps, furiously trying to secure just one pair of tickets. All I saw were animated gifs symbolizing the ticket overlord’s digital brain thinking, trying to process my humble request. The process had completed on the iPad and it showed that I had secured seats, all I needed to do was hit the confirmation button and we’d be set, so I hit the button.
What? What do you mean error??? Panic started to set in. It was already 10:10 at this point and all the good tickets were surely gone by now, plus my lovely wife was reminding me how late we were going to be to our brunch. I restarted the ticket search on the iPad and got the mocking animated gif again, so I checked on my phone. Nice, a different pair of tickets had come up, all I needed to do was hit the confirm button and they were ours, so I hit the button.
Oh come on, this is ridiculous! Curses began flying around, the wife continued to look at me impatiently, but I still had no tickets, so I had to keep trying. Both devices were searching and the phone came back with another pair of tickets. All I needed to do was hit the confirm button and they would be mine, so I hit the button.
Thank you for your purchase Mr. Schneider, here is your confirmation number.
It worked! It had taken until almost 10:30, but I had my pair of tickets and we could now continue with the lovely day we had planned.
A few hours later I check my email on my phone and noticed a Ticketmaster confirmation email…
Apparently, those other two requests ended up going through, so now I had 3 pairs of tickets. No bother, the concert is almost 3 months away, I’ll surely find a way to unload them.
The first pair arrived via USPS about a week later, but only that one pair. I found that strange, so I logged into my Ticketmaster account to see where the other ones were, since I always opt for having the tickets mailed to me. Much to my surprise, only two pairs had been for the Friday night show of which one pair had been mailed to me and the other would need to be picked up at will-call. The final pair was for the Thursday night show and were in e-ticket form and to be printed out.
The Day of the Show
Fast forward three months, one week before the show and I’m still sitting on all six tickets. I put up an ad on Craigslist and notifications on Facebook and Twitter but couldn’t unload these tickets. The day before the Thursday show my wife had managed to unload the extra Friday tickets, but not the Thursday. She decided that she was going to take the train from NYC to Newark and try to sell the tickets outside the arena. I wasn’t comfortable letting her do that on her own, so I drove there after work to help her in her endeavor. After 10 minutes of walking around, we realized it was a lost cause. Our tickets weren’t good enough and everybody who was there already had tickets. We were both annoyed and I suggested, “why don’t we just go to the show tonight?” So that’s exactly what we did.
Radiohead – Night #1
The Prudential Center is a great place to watch a hockey game, but I’d never been there for anything else. When I looked at our tickets and saw we were in section 109, I was excited and thought we would down pretty low. Not so much. We weren’t in the tippy-top, but we were up there. The good thing was we were closer to the stage than a lot of others.
I’ve seen Radiohead perform before and I was most certainly excited to see them, but as soon as they started playing I realized how much I love this band and how they are completely in their own league. Their sound is very complex, with several layers of sound and when you hear it on an album you assume it’s overdubbing and other sound engineering terms that I don’t understand, but somehow Radiohead is able to replicate these sounds live and sound even better. It’s almost as if it was created on another planet and only Radiohead have the ability to translate to us earthlings. At one point they had 4 drummers on stage and when they performed “The Gloaming” the bass was so crisp and deep, it felt like it was trying to gently rearrange your organs, but in a good way.
Not only was the sound fantastic, the visual displays were dynamic and entertaining as well. The entire backdrop was lit and changed colors from song to song to reflect different tempos and moods. In addition, they had about 16 individual flat screen montiors displaying video footage of band members from cameras perched on the stage and on different pieces of equipment that were raised, lowered and tilted for each song. What I wasn’t quite expecting was how animated Thom Yorke was going to be on stage. Last time we had seen them was at the All Points West Festival in 2008, where he did a bit of dancing in place, but at this show whenever he wasn’t behind a piano or keyboard he was all over the stage spasticly dancing about.
Their first set was about an hour and a half and when they came out for the encore I suggested to my wife that we leave before the end of the encore since we’d be coming back tomorrow and probably won’t miss much, even though I didn’t really want to leave. As we were contemplating our move we hear Thom on the piano playing a slowed down rendition of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love,” which I found a bit strange, but the chills began to creep up my neck when I realized where they were going with this. All of a sudden he broke into the intro to “Everything In Its Right Place,” which is probably my favorite Radiohead song. We started jumping around, clapping and enjoying the moment. I was so happy we got to hear that, so I was ready to leave after, which after a very short break was when they started their second encore. People were running back from the bathrooms and exits surprised they were coming out again. From our seats to the entrance was a good 5 minute journey, and I told my wife how happy I was that we came and that the only song I wish I could still see them play was “The National Anthem” which they probably wouldn’t play anyway. As we get off the elevator about the exit the arena I hear that reverb-y guitar lick that’s, yup your guessed it, the intro to “The National Anthem.” We dart back up the steps and sneak into the first section that we find. Unfortunately, the usher of that section wasn’t happy that 15 people just ducked into her section who didn’t belong there and had to leave, but at least we got to hear most of the song from the concourse area. It was a fantastic show and I can’t believe that I almost ate those tickets to play pick-up roller hockey instead.
Their playlist was very heavy with King of Limbs and In Rainbows material (as Thom Yorke said after the first few track “we’re not ready for the greatest hits just yet”), but they sprinkled in some older hits as well. Here is the playlist:
- 15 Step
- The Daily Mail
- The Gloaming
- Morning Mr. Magpie
- Lotus Flower
- There There
- Karma Police
- You and Whose Army?
- Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
- Everything In Its Right Place
- Give Up the Ghost
- The National Anthem
Here are the photos:
Radiohead – Night #2
Radiohead isn’t one of those bands who would mail-it-in the second night at a venue so we were excited to see them the second night. For us, everything was different this evening. Instead of us driving to the show, we were taking the train from Penn Station in New York and this time we had friends who were coming with us. The train lines at Penn Station were insane due to the show and the fact that it was a Friday night in New York. After a frightening trip to Penn Station bathroom, we all boarded the train to Newark. It was very easy taking NJ Transit to Newark Penn Station, only taking about 15 minutes. Once we got there the arena was only 3 blocks away, making it very easy to get to.
One thing they’re finally rectifying around the Prudential Center is opening some decent bars and restaurants that you can go to before and after events. We popped into the Edison Ale House for a quick drink before heading across the street to the concert. Tonight we had general admission tickets which means we were going to be on the floor. Instead of looking down at Radiohead, today we’d be looking up.
We got into the arena just as Radiohead was starting. I feel bad missing Caribou, the opening band, because I really like their music, too. The way they had the general admission floor set up, they had aisles on the sides where people could walk out to if they needed to use the bathroom or get refreshments. There was a white line that separated the floor from the aisle. We ended up walking down the aisle pretty far and got a great spot no more than 40 feet away from the stage, not bad for coming in at the last minute.
The set started off identical to the night before, but from this different vantage point, it all felt completely different. The sound on the floor was just as spectacular as from the seats, but you didn’t feel the bass as much on floor. The crowd was great too, everyone was just having a good time, singing along and cheering. Thom’s dancing was toned down a bit from the night before, but he was still animated. He did admit later on that he had quite sick, so for him to have put on a performance like that was incredible. It’s so amazing watching them perform live, especially Thom who, in addition to singing played guitar, piano, keyboard and maracas. I was so happy when they played “The National Anthem” towards the end of the first set since I had missed most of it the night before. It sounds great!
Despite the great first set, there was a bit of a screw up at the end during “Ideoteque.” Johnny Greenwood was working his magical recording devices, but something must have gone awry to the point where Thom said “Fuck It” and just walked off stage. Fortunately, that was the end of the set and not during the second song of the night.
With the exception of “Supercollider,” their 4 song first encore was different than the one from the night before, finishing off with “Go to Sleep” and “Paranoid Android,” which both had the crowd going crazy. Thom messed up the lyrics to “Paranoid Android,” but no one seemed to upset about it.
Two-thirds of the previous night’s final encore were the same with the exception being the final song which was R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” into “Everything In Its Right Place.” Everybody in the arena was clapping, dancing and loving the final song of the evening. It was amazing getting to see such a complex song being done live and so well! Here is the playlist:
- 15 Step
- Kid A
- The Daily Mail
- The Gloaming
- Pyramid Song
- Morning Mr. Magpie
- Lotus Flower
- The National Anthem
- How to Disappear Completely
- Go to Sleep
- Paranoid Android
- Give Up the Ghost
- The One I Love/Everything In Its Right Place
Here are the photos:
The Path Train
After the show, we figured it would be a piece of cake to get home, just walk those same three blocks back to the train station, hop on the Path and be home in lovely Hoboken in new time. That would only make sense. Having extra trains running back to New York on a night where there’s a concert with over 15,000 people would only make sense.
I’m proposing a new slogan for the Path – “It doesn’t make sense, but what are you gonna do about it?”
So after the show, the majority of people who had gone to the concert were trying to get back to the New York City area, since the two shows at the Prudential Center were the only shows in the New York City area. The Path train platform was packed, so when a train showed up at 11:30, we all hopped on board, completely filling the train like within two minutes. One would think, the folks at the Path would know they would have significantly higher ridership with the concert and try to add an extra train or two when the concert was scheduled to get out. If you thought so, you’d be wrong. We all sad on that packed, stuffy train for almost 30 minutes before we left the station. What made it worse, was the night before, when we had a vehicle and had left a few minutes before the show was over, we were home in 22 minutes.
Nothing could take away the fact that the Friday night show was in my top 5 concerts of all time. Radiohead is one of the best bands of our generation. They’re always evolving their sound, trying new things and pushing the boundaries of their art, not only their music, but how it’s distributed. “In Rainbows” was originally distributed as using an unheard of pay-what-want model, while “King of Limbs,” presented as the world’s first “newspaper album” was originally set to be released February 19th, 2011, but figured since it was ready the day before, all those who had pre-ordered could download it now. They’re a band always challenging themselves and the status quo, which is something, as designers, we should think about doing to (see, I made it related to design…sort of). I can’t wait to see them next time their back in the area and I’m already looking forward to whatever they’re up to next, which could be something with Jack White. My mind is patiently waiting to be blown.