I really like Radiohead. Maybe you’ve figured that out already. So when I heard a bunch of bands were going to play Radiohead covers at the Rosemount Hotel, I was super keen despite already having tickets to the real thing … because too much is never enough when you’re talking about rock royalty.
I missed the opening band, The Disappointed (which was a pity because they played a lot of my favourites – Paranoid Android, Exit Music, Bodysnatchers) but made it just in time for Sugarpuss. They set the mood with a noisy, atmospheric intro punctuated by a “Fitter Happier” style voice-over before launching into a souped-up version of Optimistic. It sounded good but the band seemed a tad uncomfortable and they looked relieved to play a couple of originals afterwards. Lucky was also a bit of a mis-fire in my eyes, with the singer not quite pulling off the vocals but he more than redeemed himself with a superb version of Climbing up the Walls complete with Thom Yorke-style freakout. However, the best was yet to come, as a small horn section was invited on stage for the most inspired cover of The National Anthem I’m ever likely to see.
Admittedly The Love Junkies, who sound much more like Nirvana than Radiohead, seemed like an odd choice for the gig. For the most part they dealt with it by playing plenty of originals and sticking with louder cover choices (namely 2+2 = 5 and Myxomatosis). However, they had a nice little surprise up their sleeve in the form of Reckoner – one of the more delicate, mellow tracks on 2007’s In Rainbows. They aced it despite it being such a big departure in style, and lead singer Mitch McDonald was able to show an impressive side of his voice that is rarely heard. With that one song the band suddenly didn’t seem so out of place and their set was elevated to something quite special.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Stillwater Giants. They’d lost two band members at short notice so I won’t be too mean, but I just keep thinking back to the singer mumbling his way through half the lyrics to High and Dry. Seeing as it’s one of Radiohead’s best known songs, it’s pretty hard to excuse. Some nice flamenco guitar work and a rocking version of oldie, Ripcord, provided a little redemption but overall it seemed kind of uninspired.
Not to worry though because local electronic cabaret madman, Tomas Ford was there to save the day.
And save the day he did. Armed with merely a microphone, a laptop and a few dress changes (plus a guitar for one song) he even managed to make the soundcheck supremely entertaining. The signature Tomas Ford treatment was given to a handful of fan favourites (e.g. No Surprises, How to Disappear Completely, Talk Show Host), which means the songs were stripped right back before being morphed into synth-laden, sexual monstrosities. Ford interacted with the crowd the way only a great performer with no care for personal boundaries can (even getting a piggy back at one point) as he worked his way toward Creep – which has been a highlight of many of his sets for years. This performance saw him jumping on the bar, running through the beer garden, singing to us through an outside window, then climbing back through as the song finished. Maybe not everyone was into it (one person shouted “play some Radiohead!” in the middle of the set comprised entirely of Radiohead songs – perhaps he was joking?) but for those with some idea of what to expect, it was a joy.
Ford finished with No Reaction and Cuddles, two originals also known as the really angry one and the really nice one, which made us all feel like we’d done something to upset the man before recieving a loving apology complete with giant group hug (not a metaphorical group hug either – there was a real one with about 20 people).
It was kind of strange to reach the end of the night and feel like it was all about Tomas Ford as much as it was about Radiohead, but the man provided such a great finale that it hardly mattered.