Started as a recreation during a period of confinement, the project The Smile – bringing together Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, respectively singer and guitarist of Radiohead, and drummer Tom Skinner, under the aegis of director Nigel Godrich – does not sport the smile of the dilettantism. To the point that after a too intense concert in Manchester a loss of voice forced Yorke to cancel, Saturday June 4, that of Lille, the first of the seven dates of the French tour of the trio. Restored, the singer was able to appear, Monday, June 6, on the main stage of the Philharmonie de Paris for the first of two shows scheduled as part of the Days Off festival.
Introduced by a poem by William Blake recorded by Irish comedian Cillian Murphy (the hero of Peaky Blinders), recalling that there is “a smile of love and a smile of deception”, The Same, title that launches the concert, is also the one that opens their first album, A Light For Attracting Attention. The singer may wear a red bass, but his voice of a haunted angel first wanders in an electronic landscape that we have become accustomed to seeing him cross in his solo records. The sequence of tracks quickly restores its place to the organic dynamics of a power trio.
Member of the jazz group Sons of Kemet, Tom Skinner has a lot to do with it, thanks to a sobriety that never goes without groove, even when the repertoire becomes more rigid towards post-punk or krautrock. Sometimes the drummer switches to machines, not without some bugs (Waving a White Flag). Alternating the plaintive falsetto (Pana Vision) and the bite of a rock singer (You Will Never Work in Television Again), Thom Yorke also asserts himself as a multi-instrumentalist. At the origin of many of Radiohead’s most desolate melodies, the piano remains a privileged companion of its spectral melancholy. But the singer also takes up bass and guitar. In the acoustic version, during a bucolic walk, Free in the Knowledgeworthy of Neil Young, or electric, as in the unpublished Bodies Laughingwhose surprisingly funky riffs are imbued with bossa moods suggesting Steely Dan as an unsuspected reference.
Cerebral and sensual
If The Smile has left aside the other members of the Oxford group – Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway – it radiates the presence of Jonny Greenwood. The lanky instrumentalist, who had never before participated in Thom Yorke’s parallel projects, brings here the aura of a “guitar hero”. But not those who brag, from solo to solo, as swaggering virtuosos. His slender silhouette with the eternal lock is recognizable among all, but it is above all the singularity of his approach that makes him one of the most important rock musicians of the last thirty years.
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