The Radiohead Project @ Primrose Potter Salon

Sometimes a last-minute decision does pay off! I had a fantastic time at this short but lovely concert that reinvented Radiohead’s music for a jazz quartet with strings.

Though the Covid music drought is now long over, I still seem to be in a mood to take more chances with the live gigs than I did before. I’m a fairly casual fan of both Radiohead and jazz music, but the premise behind this project – to explore Radiohead’s affinity for jazz as the revered British band became increasingly experimental in their approach to songwriting – seemed interesting enough to tempt me out of the house on a cold Melbourne evening.

This was my second concert at the small and intimate Primrose Potter Salon, and this time around it was virtually sold out, with almost every chair filled. At first I grabbed what looked like a perfect seat in the second row right in the centre, but little did I know that the man sitting next to me had a serious case of sniffles from what appeared to be a nasty cold. There was obviously nothing he could do about it, so it was up to me to improve my conditions. During a pause after the first song, I moved to an empty spot one row behind, where the view wasn’t as good but the acoustics improved significantly.

To my surprise, the performers all looked quite young, some barely into their twenties, and included a classic jazz trio with piano, bass and drums, as well as an accompanying string quartet. Amelia Evans, the vocalist and our MC for the night, explained that the strings were a relatively new exciting addition to the project, and they definitely contributed a lot to the experience.

The concert began with the haunting and ominous sounds of Everything in Its Right Place from Kid A, and then ran through some of Radiohead’s best-known songs like Paranoid Android, No Surprises, Optimistic, Lotus Flower and Pyramid Song, touching on most of their albums. Though I didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect, I was instantly sold on these inspired and creative jazz re-interpretations, which paired wonderful musicianship with Amelia’s expressive, versatile vocals. On many occasions, the songs would put a spotlight on the individual musicians, and their solo piano, bass and drums improvisations were rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

I was wondering if Radiohead’s earlier, less experimental 90s output would make the cut, but then we were treated to a gorgeous jazzy take on High and Dry off The Bends. During the introduction, Amelia stuck up for the song, which is apparently despised by the band and was only ever performed by Radiohead live twice. Ouch! I definitely agree that it doesn’t deserve to be disowned and is in fact one of their best songs.

My only complaint was a wish for a longer concert, as a mere hour left me craving for more of jazzed up Radiohead. I would definitely want to see more of The Radiohead Project if an opportunity comes along.

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