It’s not like I didn’t want to see them live before, but after watching them play on The Daily Show I have become a devout fan. Amok I believe will end up being one of my very favorite albums this year. I knew this would be the case after living with that record for a month. There’s five albums I can see without a doubt will end up on my top five list, and Amok is one of them. It’s their mix of kinetic energy, futuristic sexual groove, and as always Thom Yorke’s dystopian vision of some chromed-out future where humans are the minority and machines have taken over, probably strutting their nuts and bolts to some futuristic sexual groove in some shiny dome on top of a skyscraper made entirely of human bones and cobalt-chrome.
But as much as I loved the record, I imagined a live representation would be a lot like watching any music video with Thom York in it: a single camera shot of Yorke dancing like a cross between Iggy Pop, Grace Jones, and a Slinky. I just didn’t think I was prepared for an hour and a half of that. Of course, there’s Flea. I’m sure he’d be bop around the stage like a mad monkey on amphetamines, with both of them coming dangerously close to colliding whilst doing their respective freak out boogies. Well all of my visions were erased from my memory -much like Big Brother or Android Cignus X-1 would erase my thoughts from my frontal lobe with a model T-1 Radial Thought Eraser- when I watched Atoms For Peace perform live on The Daily Show this week. Yorke and Flea had a nice little conversation regarding Atoms’ formation and how the band affects their day jobs(those being Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers.) Then Yorke and Flea joined Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco on stage and they proceeded to melt my face with two spot-on and groove-filled performances. One of Amok’s “Default” and the other a mind-blowing version of Yorke’s “Harrowdown Hill” from his 2006 solo album The Eraser. Now I don’t use descriptions like “mind-blowing”, or say things like “melt my face” lightly, but they are worthy of use in describing these performances. I just need to apologize to the band right now for thinking their live interpretations would be less than exciting(boring.) They were the opposite. Live, this band becomes a groove machine, bringing their chromed-out, intricate sound from vinyl into the realm of the living as some sort of contorted, funked-up beast. Mauro Refosco is the key here folks. Everyone adds to this wooly mammoth of a band, but Refosco is the one that makes this music go from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. He adds layers of percussion that accentuate all the details we may miss. Waronker is as solid as they come as a drummer, but his job in Atoms For Peace is to lay down a groove and keep it solid and moving. Refosco creates these layers of percusssion and clinks and clacks that seems to bounce off the main groove right at you. On vinyl, it sounds amazing. Live, it sounds absolutely stunning. Godrich layers synths underneath while Flea stalks the stage banging away at his bass as if he’s trying to resuscitate it from cardiac arrest. Flea is Flea. He could be playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and he’d still get up and groove next to the conductor like a madman, and I love him for that.
Atoms For Peace are playing the UIC Pavillion in Chicago this week. I won’t be there. I’ll sigh as I sit at home and imagine the wonder that is Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Flea, Mauro Refosco, and Joey Waronker creating futuristic grooves on a stage in the Windy City. Godspeed Atoms For Peace. Godspeed.