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Throwback Thursday: Radiohead, Alabama Shakes, Nathaniel Rateliff

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Radiohead: Live at Tramps, 1995

Radiohead is considered to be one of the great prog/art rock groups of all time. With the recent hubbub surrounding the release of their newest single “Burn The Witch” and the accompanying video, we decided to revisit this vintage concert recording from 1995. The concert was a magical experience, with the majority of the songs coming from their critically acclaimed work The Bends as well as their less impactful release, Pablo Honey.

While this is an earlier show for the alt-rock titans, many of the songs played here are considered staples of their repertoire, such as “High and Dry,” “Just,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Creep,” and “My Iron Lung.” The performance of “Just” near the beginning of the show is a particular standout, with the track feeling much more galvanized than the studio version. Guitarist Johnny Greenwood’s power chords are in full force throughout during the show, and frontman Thom Yorke’s eerie, mysterious and emotional vocals show why this British band has become such a phenomenon in live music.

It is easy to see why many industry aficionados are anticipating that Radiohead will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year, in their inaugural year of eligibility. With a sound that differed immensely from most alternative rock of the ‘90s, they helped pave the way for a lot of the more progressive indie bands dominating the airwaves as of late. Here’s hoping that their performances this summer at festivals like Lollapalooza, Osheaga and Outside Lands will be as impressive as this show. With an immense fan base and the music video for “Burn The Witch” eclipsing more than a million views in well under 24 hours, it would be hard to see Radiohead performing any less than their best on tour this summer.

Alabama Shakes: Live at the Paste Magazine Offices, 2010

Alabama Shakes have been one of the few great indie-blues-rock success stories of the past four or five years. Similar to what The White Stripes accomplished for blues-rock in the early aughts, Alabama Shakes have been passed the torch for the 2010s. Formed in 2009, the ensemble has become virtually unknown to major music festival sub headliner, all in the span of less than a decade. This footage, recorded from our office in Decatur, Georgia in 2010 shows the band during their early stages. Led by frontwoman Brittany Howard and her immense vocals and guitar skills, Alabama Shakes prove their mettle in this intense, five song session.

It’s important to note that this session was filmed well before the release of their debut album. Therefore, many of the songs featured, such as “Heavy Chevy” and “Be Mine” show the band at their most raw. Many comparisons can be made of this band to ‘60s psych rock groups like Big Brother and The Holding Company. In fact, Brittany Howard’s singing is remarkably similar to the late Janis Joplin. The finale of the session, “Heavy Chevy,” proves that Howard and her outfit are exceptional instrumentalists as well. With such a rare and effervescent sound, it’s no surprise to anyone that Alabama Shakes were destined to blow up. Currently scheduled to appear at large scale events like Panorama and Sasquatch, expect them to remain a festival favorite for a long while. This set should whet even the most resilient blues-rock fan’s appetite.

Nathaniel Rateliff: Live at Aloft Broomfield, 2013

Nathaniel Rateliff is best known as the front man for the successful soul/R&B group, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats. In this session recorded live on September 12, 2013 from the Aloft Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado, he gets to show the soulful side he’s known for, as well as a more mellowed-out folk rock sound. The unique blend of these two distinct musical temperatures makes for an exceptional performance by Rateliff, as well as giving the opportunity for listeners to experience his music in a slightly different manner and setting than they are accustomed to.

On the opening track of this session “Don’t Get Too Close,” Rateliff doesn’t hesitate in showing what he’s capable of (check out the video recording of this track right here). This is a powerful way to start this acoustic session, and from the very first note, he doesn’t let the listener go. The stripped-down approach to this session is very definite. The tactic feels very minimal, and proves that truly great music can be made with just vocals and an acoustic guitar.

On other songs, such as the hauntingly beautiful “When Do You See,” Rateliff seems to tell anecdotes using the metaphorical lens of his songwriting ability. “When Do You See” gives the listener the feeling of being in a cozy coffee shop on a cold winter’s day; this kind of warmth is pervasive throughout the middle portion of the footage.

Markedly, none of these tracks feel hasty or gaudy. Rateliff’s performing technique in this session emphasizes gradualism and subtlety. This provides for a much stronger prominence on the mood of the performance. For example, on the song “Still Trying,” one feels the pain and suffering that the song is portraying, particularly when Rateliff hits the refrain “This wound is going to cancel me out.” The control of this particular track is the pre-climax of the session, similar to the feeling one gets just before a roller coaster hits the first drop.

By the last weapon in Rateliff’s arsenal “Nothing to Show For” the sentiment of the session is at a high, and he does not disappoint. At this point, the speed of the music is a little quicker and the energy of the music is felt vivaciously. As the deep and weighty effect of the session intensifies, the listener begins to wonder how Rateliff can top his performance of “Still Trying.” Yet somehow he accomplishes his goal with triumph. The temperament of “Nothing to Show For” doesn’t surrender its octopus-like grip on the listener until the final chord evaporates into silence. This is as true of verification as any of Rateliff’s songwriting aptitude, and the spellbinding effect that a truly great entertainer can have on an audience.

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