Reporting Scott T. Sterling
Atoms for Peace, the alt-rock super-group featuring Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, thrilled a few hundred fans at an exclusive club show in Los Angeles last night (June 14).
The band, which also includes Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco charged through a dynamic set that ran over two hours and covered both Yorke’s 2006 solo album The Eraser and Atoms for Peace’s recently released full-length debut, Amok. Fans were also treated to a cover of obscure Radiohead B-side “Paperbag Writer” and a show-closing rendition of “Rabbit in Your Headlights,” the song Yorke wrote with DJ Shadow and recorded with James Lavelle’s band UNKLE for that band’s 1998 debut album, Psyence Fiction.
With the small club Fais Do Do in L.A.’s Mid-City neighborhood rechristened “Club Amok” for the night, this alleged warm-up show for the upcoming Atoms for Peace world tour found the band already in fighting shape, with an especially relaxed Yorke cracking jokes between songs and putting on an impressive display of his increasingly popular dancing skills.
Musically, the band’s chemistry was palpable, with Flea indulging the jazzier and more subtle side of his bass playing and serving as an ideal foil for Yorke’s distinctive vocal style. With Godrich acting as an onstage musical director flitting between a bevy of different instruments, Waronker and Refosco laid down a rock-sold but fluid rhythm, with Refosco generating sounds from a large bank of exotic drums.
The show revealed Atoms for Peace to be first and foremost a beat machine, pushing and pulling at a panorama of complex polyrhythms like the Talking Heads circa Remain in Light. The enthusiastic crowd responded in kind, turning “Club Amok” into such a joyous dance party that the floor of the old theater buckled noticeably in time to the music.
Of the night’s wealth of dance beats, it was the sped-up electro skip of Amok album track “Dropped” that proved to be the fan favorite of the night, generating an extended ovation that had Yorke beaming and raising his fists triumphantly in the air.
There was a jarring moment towards the end of the show, however, when Yorke pulled up a chair to perform solo song “The Present Tense” on acoustic guitar. Before he could finish the first verse, he abruptly stopped to snap at someone near the front of the stage for talking during the quiet song. “You can talk when I’m f**king finished!” he admonished before going back to finish the number.
The awkward moment did little to derail the show, with DJ Gaslamp Killer jumping on the turntables at show’s end as fans gleefully tore at the “Club Amok” posters on the walls for souvenirs of a night few will soon forget.