Radiohead are one of the world’s most popular bands. Their live performances are works of art and they rarely play the same setlist twice, a true sign of how diverse and brilliant their discography is. Here is my Ultimate Radiohead Setlist, sorry guys, but Creep isn’t on here:
From the very moment I heard this ethereal, six-minute long soundscape, I knew immediately that it would be the perfect opener for Radiohead. Luckily, the band appear to agree and often choose it as their starting place and it is hardly difficult to see why. The piano keys are melodic while the spacey, low-fi production has an elegant build to it; preparing fans for what is to come in the set.
2. Everything In Its Right Place
As far as album openers go, I don’t think there are many better than Everything In Its Right Place, the first track from Radiohead’s essential 2000 release Kid A. The sound was so ahead of its time and the synthesised instrumentals are like a dagger to the feels while also being an atmospheric masterpiece. Thom Yorke’s vocals are biblical on this song and it is songs like this that the crowd can just stand and admire.
3. 15 Step
Another album opener, this time opting for 15 Step from 2007 album In Rainbows. I feel like this would be a valiant kick into life with those crashing electronic drum beats and Thom’s high-pitched chorus. It has a gorgeous guitar riff in the verses and it coincides very well with the futuristic production that upholds the song’s energy throughout. Easily one of the group’s best songs and a sure-fire hit on their live sets.
4. My Iron Lung
Four songs in, all from different albums; this time choosing a cut from Radiohead’s third album The Bends in My Iron Lung. The depth and variation of the band’s sound has been made evident from how I would start this set and this track is no different, providing more of a throwback grunge-influenced sound from their mid 90s era of angst and turmoil.
Bodysnatchers is my fifth song of the setlist and the reasons should be pretty obvious when you listen to it. Easily one of the best songs on In Rainbows and even Radiohead’s discography as a whole, it is baffling to learn that the band recorded this song in one live take; taking place inside a dilapidated mansion to create the uncomfortable atmosphere necessary to garner the right emotion that the song needs.
6. Planet Telex
This song would be a very welcome surprise for Radiohead fans as it doesn’t really feature as a typical staple on their setlists, but as a live entity I think it would be phenomenal. The first track from The Bends would fit in nicely with the mould of this setlist with it’s energetic guitars and Thom Yorke’s amped-up vocal delivery, easily one of my favourites from the band.
7. The National Anthem
This really is a bonkers track, it has so much life to it while simultaneously being so emotionally poignant and bleak. The guitar riff sounds brilliant in a studio version so imagine what it’ll be like live! Also those horns and strings that seem to take control over the song in the middle section would add to the chilling mood of the song and performance; it’d be spine-tingling.
8. Burn The Witch
Staying in theme of a backing orchestra, playing the first track from 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool would fit in beautifully to the ebb and flow of the set. Burn The Witch is already becoming one of the fan favourites of the Radiohead discography for it’s intriguing manner and wishful lyricism, so be sure to see this song very well received in a live show.
9. No Surprises
The first and certainly not the last track from 1997 masterpiece OK Computer, it would be utterly foolish to leave this song out of a Radiohead setlist. No Surprises is loved for many reasons and could well be seen as one of the group’s most infamous songs; just imagine the whole crowd singing along to that gut-wrenching chorus, waving their arms aloft with phone torches as far as Thom Yorke can see.
10. High & Dry
High & Dry is one of Radiohead’s most beautiful tracks as well as one of their most bleak, the lyricism cuts deep but is also delivered in such a way that it can be sang from the rooftops at a live show. Performance wise it would be angelic and a really intimate moment with the crowd and the band, no matter how large the audience; take their Glastonbury headline set as an example of this.
11. Lotus Flower
The only song from 2011’s The King Of Limbs to appear on this setlist, I rank this amongst the very best songs Radiohead have ever done. It has an eerie instrumental courtesy of those calculated drum beats and the production work of Johnny Greenwood. Thom Yorke’s vocal delivery is as strong as ever and after the success of it as their first encore track at Glastonbury 2017, I reckon it would be a huge hit from here on in for a Radiohead live show.
12. Desert Island Disk
One of the strongest tracks from 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool, it would be unfortunate for a song as great as Desert Island Disk to not make it onto a Radiohead setlist. It was the first song the band wrote from this album and is one they had ready for years, waiting for the right time to release it. Luckily they deemed their most recent album as the perfect unveiling moment and now we get to hear it in all it’s beauty.
13. How To Disappear Completely
Atmospheric to the core and as emotionally jarring as it gets, How To Disappear Completely is a song about escapism and wanting to leave behind the traumas that life throws at you. Witnessing it live could be the antidote to doing just that for those in the audience; as Radiohead have often been labelled as one of the most beloved and helpful bands to people who struggle with personal battles. If I saw this live there is no way I wouldn’t break down in an instant, it is just too beautiful.
Simply put, this song is absolutely mega. An absolute epic of an album opener, 2+2=5 is perhaps the finest example of Radiohead at their loudest and most abrasive, with Thom Yorke building the tension and atmosphere of the song so effortlessly before the instrumental comes flying at full speed into a crazed frenzy. If you haven’t seen it already, watch them play this song at Glastonbury, everything about it is utterly breathtaking.
15. Pyramid Song
Amnesiac was a troubled album, often slated for the fall from grace the band felt after OK Computer and Kid A; but what cannot be denied is the brilliance of it’s lead single, Pyramid Song. The track’s huge orchestral setup would be a sight to behold during a live performance and the dark but angelic hymn as a whole would create an atmosphere of sheer bliss, despite the fact that lyrically Thom Yorke sings about the fear of cyclical time and the depths of depravity.
Thrashing guitar notes, an energetic Thom Yorke vocal melody, pulsating drums; Myxomatosis is a vitally important rock anthem in the Radiohead discography and one which simply has to be played live in my opinion. It stands tall as one of the very best tracks from Hail To The Thief and would coincide nicely with the mood that followed in the set.
Perhaps the most recognisable song from their iconic 2000 album Kid A, it would be hard to deny Idioteque a place in this setlist, particularly one towards the end. It stands, for me, as the blueprint of the Kid A identity, experimenting with electronic sounds and chilling melody; something that Radiohead have in abundance. It would be an absolute spectacle to witness first hand and I am immensely jealous of anyone who can say they have.
18. Paranoid Android
A six minute song about a depressed computer, what isn’t to love? What would be amazing about this song is the haunting mystique that would surround the performance for the first couple of verses and choruses; before a mass explosion of noise from Johnny Greenwood’s guitar in both of his sensational guitar solos. It wouldn’t be a sing-along anthem as such, but it would be a visual and sonic masterpiece, the ideal way to start an encore.
19. Fake Plastic Trees
Picture the scene: a packed out arena, Thom Yorke stands tall with the spotlight on him and an acoustic guitar in his hand. The first chord strikes and the words “a green plastic watering can” leave his mouth. The serene beauty of this song makes it quintessential to any Radiohead setlist and it is without doubt one of the band’s most iconic songs ever. Vocally Thom Yorke is still as strong as ever so I can imagine that this song would be staggeringly good live.
20. Karma Police
Unquestionably the ideal song to bring a Radiohead set to a close, Karma Police is quintessential listening and an iconic live experience. It is one of the group’s biggest songs to date, hailing from the instant classic OK Computer album, and would be a momentous finale to the performance. Just imagine how beautiful it would be seeing Thom Yorke and the crowd sing in harmony: “For a minute there, I lost myself” as the stage fades to black. Wow.