July 8, 2023

The Smile played Forest Hills Stadium

The Smile are in the midst of their second-ever North American tour and brought their dazzling show to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens on a splendid summer evening.

Last year, The Smile released their highly-teased and hugely-anticipated debut album A Light for Attracting Attention and in support of it, they played three New York City shows on their first ever tour of the continent. To have them back so soon was both a bit of a surprise, but also a very welcomed return for a group that has already proved their status lives up to the massive expectations. Taking to the stage as the sun began to set, Thom Yorke quickly made his way to a piano as the band eased into their set with the slow lurch of "Pana-Vision," a song that eased the crowd into the band's majestic style of progressive rock as Jonny Greenwood ushered in guitar over Tom Skinner's distinctive drumming. "Thin Thing" picked up the mood and gave us our first taste of the band's rockier moments as they started to lock-in to their frazzled grooves that came to life with brazen passion throughout the night. As Jonny moved to the piano for "The Opposite," he also brought a harp with him as he multi-tasked through the languid ballad, letting the musical talent of the group unfurl with immaculate precision. "Speech Bubbles" elevated the mood to a dream-like status, the melody gently floating through the air (shoutout to the person who blew actual bubbles during the performance) giving off a peaceful sentiment for one of the band's most meditative tracks. As the track slowly dissipated, the band curled into a tight-knit breakdown with Jonny bowing his bass while Yorke swirled together bristling feedback breaking the night apart with a texture breakdown while Skinner slathered his drum set with evocative brush strokes before the band congealed for "A Hairdryer," slipping right back into their dialed-in nature demonstrating their brilliant ability to shift their tones from jumbled jams to sophisticated songs. As one of the most in-demand live acts in indie rock, Thom Yorke has made it clear that he generally tours with his projects when he has new material and isn't so much a fan of just playing the greatest hits so to have The Smile back only a year after releasing their sole album seemed a bit out of the ordinary, but after posting numerous images to social media of the band in the studio, the trio didn't wait long to introduce new tracks to the set list and "Under Our Pillows" was a great first taste of the unreleased material we can hopefully expect to hear soon. "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings" brought the rock back into the show and had the crowd moving along with expressive feelings before they dove back into the new goods. "Colours Fly" was road tested on their first tour and sounded just as impressive this go around as it did the first time, only building the hype for what album number two could have in store and it transitioned wonderfully into "Teleharmonic," a track that instantly seemed like the sibling to "Thin Thing," the opening riff sounding almost identical while the rest of the track slowly formed around it, offering a new perspective on the familiar groove. "Skirting on the Surface" was tight and crisp, the band once again recreating their studio magic with a near identical rendition that was enhanced by Jonny Greenwood's unexpected, yet moving guitar solo that somehow magnified the track to unveil even more delightful details. "Read the Room" once again highlighted the future of the group, the jammy tune fitting in with the utmost ease into their set list and giving off a more relaxed tone than some of the more detailed works and a bit of an Eastern tinge mixed in with Jonny once again taking a bow to his instrument, this time an acoustic guitar, before they blasted away with "You Will Never Work in Television Again," a song that somehow sounds even richer and more full of life and vibrance when blown-out on stage than it does on record and switched the dial to remind everyone that Thom and Jonny were not just once capable, but still more than able to deliver a song that rocks out with vigor and force that will leave a crowd reeling like the '90s never came to an end. The encore saw the band unleashed a spellbinding "Free in the Knowledge," which sent the crowd into a deep hush as everyone hung on each note from Yorke's raw and pristine acoustic guitar before it blossomed into the lovely finale which had the crowd cheering with adoring passion. "People on Balconies" was another moving number that reinforced the band's beauty before they dove into their most recent single, "Bending Hectic." For this one, the band's swirling guitars and washy rhythms set a murky stage of billowing notes and rhythms that morphed into a cloud storm of unrelenting thunder. Jonny Greenwood tore into his guitar with a distinguished power while Skinner let loose on his drums to bring the song to a triumphant finish, making for one of the most mind blowing moments this legendary songwriting duo has ever composed and brought to life on stage. Closing with Yorke's solo track "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" translated the electronic tune into a blistering rocker, once again skewing from the narrative that Yorke and Greenwood have evolved beyond their alt-rock days and suggests that in this new form, they're free from expectations. To be able to see such genius songwriters experimenting without constraint is an unreal pleasure and one that any fan should never miss.

Set list:

01 "Pana-Vision"
02 "Thin Thing"
03 "The Opposite"
04 "Speech Bubbles"
05 "A Hairdryer"
06 "Waving a White Flag"
07 "Under Our Pillows"
08 "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings"
09 "Colours Fly"
10 "Teleharmonic"
11 "Skrting on the Surface"
12 "The Same"
13 "Read the Room"
14 "The Smoke"
15 "You Will Never Work in Television Again"
16 "Free in the Knowledge"
17 "People on Balconies"
18 "Bending Hectic"
19 "Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses"

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