Thom Yorke isn't dancing to be weird; he's setting an example.
The Radiohead frontman has internalized England's club tradition, and is now making dance tracks on par with James Blake, Jamie xx, Burial, or any of his other compatriots in the British beat illuminati. His Oct. 22 show at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with his Tomorrow's Modern Boxes ensemble—him, his longtime co-producer, Nigel Godrich, and visual artist Tarik Barri—covered music from throughout his solo career. But the highlights were invariably from this year's Anima, which confirms the singer's solo work at this stage in his career is arguably more exciting than his band.
Tracks like "Traffic" and "Runwayaway" are bracing and funky, the great-grandchildren of the Caribbean rhythms that make dubstep and U.K. garage sound as if they're opening pockets in spacetime. As a performer, Yorke leaned into his Yorke-ness, as aware of his brand as any pop star. He's a true eccentric who thrives on the bewilderment generated by his own presence. Yorke moves like a puppet full of wet noodles, and when he took the floppiest bow I'd ever seen at the end of the show, he looked as though he might slide out of his own skin.
Certainly, he got looser than anyone else. The rock-weaned audience at the Schnitz didn't seem entirely sure how to respond to the music, clapping along as if they were at a Tom Petty show instead of a rave. And their insistence on screaming during every quiet moment—and there were many of those—quickly grew irritating. Maybe they thought they were adding something to the music, but I don't think Godrich ever turned to Yorke and said, "You know what these track needs? Some drunken Americans."