The Smile: Academy 2 Manchester

The Smile, Thom and Johnny’s Radiohead spin off with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, means not only a great album but also a chance to see genuine music legends outside of the stadium circuit. Our man Del Pike was there, grinning!

Watching the famous yet wizened face of Thom Yorke at close quarters in the sweaty Manchester Academy is a like attending a masterclass on how to do it right. Examining his every move is almost like watching a wildlife documentary, whether he be noodling incessantly on his guitar or flailing wildly, arms simian in the air.

And what of the music?

With the album virtually on rotation at home, it was a joy to hear it played in order, in its entirety (with Bodies Laughing thrown into the mix for good measure), and it sounded so good. Obvious belter singles The Smoke and You Will Never Work In Television Again, raise the spirits high, the former being a great nod to Can, but it’s perhaps the quieter moments that chill the soul the most.

Thom at the keyboards, head down, Johnny chugging like a steam hammer at his guitar and Tom Skinner holding the whole thing together with good karma. Dreamlike.

The temptation to toss a few Radiohead tunes in is restrained, and this is good.  They may be famous faces of 30 plus years but this feels like it should – a new band, new songs, small venue, like Wings playing your local Odeon in the early 70s.

The beautiful Skrting The Surface closes the set and a perfect encore treats us to new track, Just Eyes And Mouth, excellent, and Thom’s 2018 solo single, Pulled Apart by Horses – a rare treat.

Pretty much as good as it gets then. The name of the band may be ironic but there were many smiles in the Academy tonight.

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