The Smile Live Review: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s project deliver anti-rock masterclass

As The Wall Of Eyes tour kicks off in Dublin, The Smile continue to explore new musical waters

Thom Yorke performing with The Smile, Dublin, March 7, 2024

by Eamon Sweeney |
Updated on

The Smile

3 Arena, Dublin, 7 March, 2024


A few weeks after OK Computer raised the bar for modern music in 1997, Radiohead played the biggest live show of their early career in Dublin’s RDS Showgrounds Arena alongside Massive Attack and Teenage Fanclub. Rather than celebrate at the aftershow, Thom Yorke reportedly retreated to his hotel room and worked on How To Disappear Completely. "Strobe lights and blown speakers. I'm not here. This isn't happening," he wrote, "I walk through walls. I float down the Liffey."

Tonight, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s currently operational band, The Smile, are starting their 2024 world tour at the Point Theatre, named after the place where the River Liffey meets the sea. Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be a Radiohead t-shirt in sight. When Yorke, Greenwood and third Smile member Tom Skinner amble on a quarter of an hour after the designated stage time, they also have American saxophonist Robert Stillman in tow. They open with the aptly titled Read The Room, a math rock banger from their new second album, Wall Of Eyes, that soon pivots into a propulsive Neu!-like groove. Behind them, the  backdrop features a vast bank of flickering lights. Individual cameras are trained on each band member, who in turn are projected and enlarged onto four screens perched high above the stage - a simple trick Radiohead have effectively employed over the years. "Look at all the pretty lights," Yorke repeatedly sings early on A Hairdryer.

READ MORE: The Smile Wall Of Eyes Reviewed: "Until Radiohead return, or even if they never regroup, The Smile will do just nicely."

Yorke bids the crowd good evening after five songs, followed by a performance of Colours Fly, an unreleased track that has been doing the rounds live since 2022. Two exclusive world premieres, entitled Instant Psalm and Zero Sum respectively, underline the fact that this is far from a side project, but a new band who refuse to sit still. The latter features a bassline that sounds a bit like a distorted take on the playing style of Thom's former Atoms For Peace bandmate Flea, dysfunctional avant-garde funk imperative to the fore. It’s a minimal, tightly-knit squad, looser, leaner, and rawer than Radiohead, operating in what’s clearly their new comfort zone. The not-so secret weapon is Skinner, a jazz percussionist previously best known for his work with Sons Of Kemet, who lends these songs considerable fluidity and nuance.

It is, overall, an anti-rock masterclass in a stadium rock venue. Yorke and Greenwood alternate between bass, keyboards, piano, and guitars, but You Will Never Work In Television Again, from 2022’s debut A Light for Attracting Attention, is a more conventional straight-up rocker. Some of tonight's set would benefit from being cranked up a few more decibels and given a greater clarity from this cavernous hall's PA, but the eight-minute long climax of the main set, Bending Hectic, is an absolute knockout.

Yorke prefaces the first of four encores, We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings, with a brief announcement. "We would like to humbly apologise on behalf of our nation for Brexit," Yorke says to delighted cheers. "The stupid c***s will be gone shortly." Teleharmonic, Pana-Vision, and You Know Me! close their Irish debut, before we march off into the dark and windy night to float down the Liffey.


Read the Room
Wall of Eyes
The Opposite
A Hairdryer

Speech Bubbles
Colours Fly
Skrting on the Surface
Instant Psalm
Thin Thing
Zero Sum
Friend of a Friend
The Smoke
You Will Never Work in Television Again
Under Our Pillows
Bending Hectic


We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings

You Know Me!

Photos: Seán McMahon

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