The Smile brighton review

The Smile at Brighton Centre | Pitch-perfect prog majesty

‘The best Radiohead side project’ does The Smile a disservice on account of the swirling alchemy the cosmic trio conjured at the Brighton Centre.

The calibre of The Smile’s output across their two stunning albums – 2022’s A Light for Attracting Attention and this year’s Wall Of Eyes – has set tongues wagging over the future of Radiohead. If there is a future for Radiohead at all, that is. 

Rumours of A Moon Shaped Pool being the Oxford titans’ swansong seem to have come to fruition, with key creative forces Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood reiterating their side project’s importance with two albums in relatively quick succession. ‘The best Radiohead side project’ does The Smile a disservice on account of the swirling alchemy they’ve conjured, which swept up the Brighton Centre crowd.

Anticipation fizzed inside of the seafront exhibition hall. There was a tangible sense of reverence for what, or who, the audience would witness tonight – two of art rock music’s most celebrated architects were in Brighton, an unlikely coup for all the city’s musos and math-rockers. 

Throughout their near-two hour set however, after the applause petered out once The Smile arrived on stage, there was hushed appreciation. Thom Yorke bowed in reciprocation, but himself had very little to say. They weren’t here to talk shop. A religious rite was unfolding. 

The cosmic trio’s wilder, krautrock leanings were pushed aside in favour of their cinematic compositions, as they eased into the performance at a tentative pace. ‘Wall Of Eyes’ gently opened proceedings, the four-way screen showing close-up camera angles fixated on each band member’s intricately intertwined instrumentation. As The Smile glided through ‘Skrting on the Surface’, ‘Speech Bubbles’ and unreleased track ‘Instant Psalms’, drummer Tom Skinner glued their respective components together, rumbling away on the rack toms with a millipede-like fluidity. 

It begs to be seen the crowd were either in awe or a state of catatonic confusion as the trio began painting the concert hall’s personality-less walls with scatterbrained jams in ‘Thin Thing’, ‘Read The Room’ and ‘We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings’. It’s in these moments their synergy blossoms when their performance feels more instinctual than orchestrated. In this depressurised zone outside of the Radiohead institution, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood rattle away at their respective instruments, realising their progressive tendencies in what feels like real-time.

There’s a mighty cheer as soon as Yorke plucks away at the muscular bassline of ‘The Smoke’, before ‘Bending Hectic’ promised to deliver a transformative crescendo, though sadly missed the mark. Arguably, The Smile’s magnum opus, their considered rendition, didn’t reach the devastating depths of the studio version. It was a rare low in a set littered with majesty, Yorke’s vocals pitch-perfect and typically piercing throughout. 

Any woes were soon rectified during the encore of ‘Pana-vision’, an eerie yet enchanting song that shares connective tissue to Yorke’s Suspiria soundtrack. Dedicating ‘Teleharmonic’ to their agent Charlie – who perhaps convinced them to take a gig in the coastal city – The Smile called it quits with the gorgeous, cello-laden ‘You Know Me!’.

Tonight’s crammed concert inside the seaside concrete block might be as good as it gets for Radiohead fans for the foreseeable future. The Smile aren’t any sort of consolation act; however, now they’re the main draw.

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