Me and Dad and Radiohead

Moved by the moment and the memories their music conjures, Radiohead's Cincinnati concert was so fucking special, leaving its audience still and enraptured.

click to enlarge Radiohead at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena Sept. 25 - Photo: Catie Viox
Photo: Catie Viox
Radiohead at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena Sept. 25
There’s something fantastically cool and possibly anxiety-inducing about seeing an old band through new eyes. On Wednesday, this journey came when I took my dad to the Radiohead concert at U.S. Bank Arena. My dad isn’t immune to jarringly loud music, even the unfamiliar variety. He’s been my plus one to his fair share of Bummers Eve concerts, thanks to his mission to be supportive dad-type-person to my boyfriend. Still. This was Radiohead. On the one hand, they’re far more chill than my dude’s band. On the other… “retired salesmen” aren’t exactly their target audience. So, how’d it go? Pretty freakin’ great.

I’ve waited a long time to be in Thom Yorke’s presence and I’m sure I’m not the only one. There was a close encounter at Bonnaroo one time, but I don’t think it counts. Of course the moment the lights dimmed, it took everything in my body to keep from shrieking like a teenager. Also teen-like were the constant glances to the old dude to my right, trying to gauge his reaction. Would he like it or hate it? Would he judge me by my love for the skinny, twitching and squirming Rock God on the stage in front of us? Turns out: Nah.

“I can’t dance any better,” he said later, when I sheepishly commented on Yorke’s moves.

Dad was certain he’d recognize a few songs, but I had my doubts. The first few songs didn’t register in his memory, but he jammed pretty hard. Before long, he turned to me and yelled, “They sound like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull had a love child!” After nearly dying of embarrassment, I had to wonder if he was really that wrong. Of my many musical failings, I can say with confidence that I’m not that familiar with Jethro Tull and that’s completely fine by me. And, anyway, I’ve certainly done my fair share of odd “sounds like” comparisons. Don’t we all hear things a little differently? Isn’t that why music is so subjective and means so many different things to each of us?

The night solidified into the perfect night when the violet lights kicked on and the whirling of “Everything In Its Right Place” began to take form. Familiarity registered on Dad’s face. He knew this one. As he should. Kid A — and “Everything” in particular — soundtracked several years of my life. Post-divorce, post-going-back-to-college and mid-working from (my parents’) home as a full-time writer, it became like white noise to me. Radiohead drowned out the television in the other room. It drowned out the commotion at Starbucks. It drowned out my brain screaming all my failures back to me. It droned until I fell asleep. It got my feet twitching across the floor each morning when I woke up to cover early breaking news. It makes sense that “Everything” was just as much part of those years of his life, that it was part of mine, too. And it was perfect, guys. Wasn’t it?

click to enlarge Thom Yorke of Radiohead at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena Sept. 25 - Photo: Catie Viox
Photo: Catie Viox
Thom Yorke of Radiohead at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena Sept. 25
Each instrument change, each new song meant nothing to my dad, other than “good tunes,” but they meant everything to most of the people in that arena — the fans, the nerds. We had our guesses when a tambourine landed in Yorke’s hand and we waited, enthralled, for his fingers to tinker out our jam on the piano. Yet even in our excitement, there was a calmness. To a certain extent, last night showed me one of the stillest and (sometimes) quietest crowds I’ve witnessed in U.S. Bank Arena. The entire place was enraptured. Each favorite song would bring a wave of noise and recognition and seemed to trigger a new set of people to dance.

It was beautiful and personal and something, I’m quite certain, you could only get from a Radiohead concert. Something that, even for the new guy beside me, seemed altogether perfect and cathartic. OK — I’ll say it and everyone can chastise me. It was so fucking special.

Click here to check out a gallery of more photos from Radiohead's Cincinnati concert.