Talent is a frail and unpredictable human quality, one men have built empires on being able to identify. More often than not, a record label will be deluged by thousands of would-be Huey Lewises, all clamoring for their attentions. Just as often, these aspiring balladeers lack the talent that agents search for, and so the music industry must continue its relentless quest, cracking open young artists like eggs in hopes of finding that sweet, sticky, yellow, high-protein yolk that is talent.
However, every once in a long while, lightning strikes. Like a brush from the hand of God, a monumentally talented and heretofore unknown individual is brought to the attention of the world through the workings not of the music industry, but rather Destiny itself. Such was the case at Tuesday night’s Radiohead concert in San Diego. Yes, readers, I am proud to announce the discovery of a remarkably fresh and dynamic talent, a singer of such virtuosity and flair that I have no doubt she will soon rise to the top of the musical pantheon. Ladies and Gentleman, may I present: The tipsy middle-aged woman who wouldn’t stop singing every song at the top of her lungs and stood right next to me for the entire concert.
Now, I had never seen Radiohead live before Tuesday. And, I must admit, I have still not seen them live in some sense, so captivated was I by the majesty and effortless talent of this ingenue, this genius of musicality. Friends had pumped me up for the event, telling me that seeing Radiohead in concert would “change my life.” Little did they know how right they would be, and yet how wrong.
Now, don’t misunderstand: Radiohead are indeed enormously talented. Frontman Thom Yorke was sullenly charismatic and brooding, the guitar work was excellent, and the set generous and remarkably tight. Radiohead have long been on the forefront of modern music innovation, and from the sounds of the new songs they played, their upcoming album will be no different. It’s not their fault they failed to shine that night; in the presence of a goddess, mortals cannot but pale and whither.
And don’t think for a second that this woman merely sang. No, my friends, singing is a talent many possess. This woman did much more, actually improving upon Thom Yorke’s own famously virtuoso singing and lyrical content. Where he would take the high note, she would alternate low to high, or break voice altogether and begin to laugh drunkenly, adding a whole new layer of meaning to “Karma Police” that had before lain dormant in the clumsy (albeit well-meaning) hands of Yorke and company.
How did she handle new songs, you ask? Well, like you, I expected the middle-aged woman standing right behind me to stop her cacophonous orations during the times Radiohead were presenting a new, previously unheard song. But no! She soldiered on, waiting only a bar or two to get the jist of the piece before adding her own auditory adornments in the forms of beats, vocal riffs, scat, and at one point a three-minute, wordless, amelodical moan that can only be described as heaven.
So innately did she understand musical conventions that she even ventured to predict entire verses of Radiohead’s new songs. Where Yorke would sing:
Has the light gone out for you?/
Cause the light's gone for me/
You can fight it like a dog/
And they brought me to my knees
She would sing (improvising, mind you):
Do you want another beer?/
Cause I want another beer/
You can figure it da da dog/
La something da da to my kneeeeees
Needless to say, complex and moving as Yorke’s lyrics may be, this woman represents an entirely new stage of musical evolution. I recommend any record label CEO that regularly reads my reviews (and I can think of three right now) go out immediately and try to find this woman. I never caught her name, but I last saw her husband dragging her out of the crowd area by the throat to the jeers and verbal threats of violence of people around her. I have no idea where their hostility came from (my guess: jealousy), but just like that, the goddess had departed, plucked like a delicate flower from the humble garden that was Radiohead’s San Diego concert. Onstage, Yorke was just finishing “Exit Music,” a song with the repeated last refrain “we hope that you choke, that you choke.” The irony in the air was palpable, and it’s a bittersweet taste I will forever savor.
Fly homeward, angel. You are this month’s Profile in Excellence.
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2009 Those Aren't Muskets!