After a 21-year wait to finally have him here in concert again, Radiohead fans in the Twin Cities probably would’ve been happy just seeing the band’s frontman get on stage to vacuum or do yoga stretches.
Thom Yorke’s first-ever local solo performance Thursday night at Northrop Auditorium actually featured elements of both those routine activities. His music was often airy and white-noisy. His dancing was nimble and spidery.
The show was anything but routine, though. Touring with longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich as his only musical partner — visual/video artist Tarik Barri was also rightfully billed as a performer — the 50-year-old British singer did not offer a single Radiohead song and only played guitar for about one-fifth of the show.
Thursday’s two-hour set was more electronic than electric. Built on jittery and subversive dance beats and looped vocal, piano, organ and/or synthesizer parts, it mined Yorke’s two solo albums and a half-dozen unreleased songs. The set list also featured two tracks from his side project Atoms for Peace and one off his new score for the supernatural horror film “Suspiria” by Italian director Luca Guadagnino.
A crowd that gobbled up the tickets in minutes, the 2,600 fans seemed to get it. Nobody yelled, “Play ‘Creep!’” Everybody seemed aware this wasn’t going to be anything like a Radiohead concert — especially the kind of Radiohead concert the band played its last time in town at the State Theatre in 1997 behind its landmark “OK Computer” album.
Yorke made no reference to the inexplicably long lull since then, but he did seem to warm up to his frigid surroundings.
“I love that people still had their hats on in the crowd,” he said near the end of the set, thanking fans for “coming out in the freezing cold.”
Musically, the show started out on an icy note with the dirge-like piano piece “Interference.” The tempo picked up considerably with “A Brain in a Bottle,” but the vibe remained conspicuously chill through much of the performance.
Among the exceptions to that low-key aesthetic — and highlights of the concert — were the 2006 nugget “Black Swan,” with a hypnotic beat almost like something out of the late-’80s Madchester scene, and the encore kickoff “Harrowdown Hill,” with hard-driving percussiveness and a manic vibe not too far removed from a recent Radiohead record.
Still, the subdued Atoms for Peace tune “Default” and a couple other mellower numbers did help showcase the night’s greatest attribute: Yorke’s singing. Even with Barri’s impressive visual backdrop — four video panels with a rainbow array of fluttering, rain-splashy, cascading lights and lines — the focus of the performance still largely fell on that voice.
Yorke’s best moment at the microphone came in the Brian Eno-ambient 2014 song “Nose Grows Some,” his voice ebbing and flowing with a dramatic flair and fluidity that recalled opening act Oliver Coates’ cello work. Yorke also stepped out vocally just before the two encores with another new piece, “Twist,” his moans sounding guttural and his high notes angelic.
The concert ended with the one purely solo song of the night, “Unmade,” from the “Suspiria” score. Played on piano, Yorke humorously said the piece was written to fill a request for “something really sweet to play over a scene with exploding heads.”
Ultimately, Thursday’s concert wasn’t anywhere near as mind-blowing as a typical show by Yorke’s regular band, but it pushed the envelope musically and visually in ways that true Radiohead fans expect and appreciate. And now maybe the rave response from Thursday’s fans will push Minnesota higher up on the prospective list for the group’s next tour.
Here’s Yorke’s full set list from the Northrop:
A Brain in a Bottle
I Am a Very Rude Person
Nose Grows Some
Two Feet Off the Ground
Not the News
Atoms for Peace