Wait, what? That was the representative answer of discerning music fans in Las Vegas when word got out that Thom Yorke would be bringing his 2018 American tour to the Cosmopolitan. Most of those fans had likely given up on ever seeing the British musician perform on a local stage, given the absence of Las Vegas on so many Radiohead tour announcements over the years. They’ve probably heard or read the stories about the problems Yorke and his four bandmates encountered during their mid-1990s opening sets at the Aladdin Theatre and the old Joint.
Mercifully, one Radiohead member is giving Las Vegas another chance, during what’s shaping up to be the most unorthodox tour of his career. When Yorke revisits Strip for the first time in almost 25 years, he’ll be joined by just one other musician—longtime musical collaborator Nigel Godrich, who has produced all but two Radiohead albums—and live visual artist Tarik Barri for an almost exclusively electronic performance (save the occasional guitar accompaniment by Yorke).
Great timing, too, given Yorke’s momentous autumn. It was announced just days ago that Radiohead will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside fellow alt-rock pioneers The Cure and Roxy Music. And in October, Yorke released his double-album soundtrack for the reimagining of Italian horror classic Suspiria, an evocative tapestry of both orchestral and synthesized textures that could garner an Oscar nomination next month.
The obvious question, then: What’s Yorke gonna play at the Chelsea? Will the show focus on the largely instrumental music from Suspiria? Might he play material from his side band, Atoms for Peace? And, of greater interest to those long-suffering Vegas fans, will he delve into the Radiohead catalog?
While he’s eschewing the latter—“Reckoner” is the lone Radiohead song that has surfaced on this U.S. tour, and infrequently so—Yorke and crew nonetheless have a bank of 20-plus songs from which they are forming their setlists, including several tracks from his two solo albums, 2006’s The Eraser and 2014’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes; a couple from both the 2013 Atoms for Peace album AMOK and Suspiria (the latter’s inclusion typically saved for the closing number); and a handful of new—and perhaps soon-to-be-released—cuts one can familiarize themselves with on YouTube.
To those less acquainted with Yorke’s extracurricular work, that will amount to a showcase of bleeping, ambient, stuttering, glitchy—and occasionally strummed—sounds that have comprised the artist’s sonic palette for the past two decades, paired with Barri’s improvised digital abstractions projected upon three large background screens. Much like Kraftwerk’s performance at the same venue in 2014, Yorke’s current show will be a synthesized, multisensory fantasia, albeit with more rhythmic and atmospheric complexity. Expect many numbers to leave the audience still, be it from the more cerebral and darker impressions of the music to compositional intricacies that beg to be parsed.
That said, anticipate the opposite during the more upbeat selections, when the crowd bobs, sways and shuffles along with the loose-limbed singer. Given recent accomplishments, and that Saturday’s show closes the tour, Yorke is due to celebrate—as is his patient Vegas fanbase.
THOM YORKE with Oliver Coates. December 22, 8 p.m., $45-$65. The Chelsea, 702-698-7000.