As the leader of Radiohead, arguably the most influential rock group of the last 20 years, Thom Yorke has both invited expectations and confounded them. His headlining set at the White Stage on Friday seemed to prove this. It seemed odd that his set was sparsely attended at first, though after the Chemical Brothers finished their own set over at the Green Stage, the audience swelled appreciably. And yet, no one displayed a particular compelling interest in what Yorke was doing. They were fascinated, but also perplexed.
Yorke is a god of technology. He uses his musical interests to further the form, and his fans indulge this pretense. For the first half of the performance, Yorke was absorbed in the process of making difficult music, clearly acting out on stage, spinning about, dancing ecstatically, playing his bass while co-conspirator Nigel Godrich made good on his musical ideas. There was no drummer, but somehow the pair made a rhythmic pulse that permeated the audience. We were transfixed, even if we didn’t know why.
No one would mistake the Yorke show for a Radiohead performance, though I Imagine that a few attendants may have been expecting as much. It was fluid and startling, anti-pop that made good on the prospect that pop would survive.