Live Review: The Smile at Alexandra Palace

Live Review: The Smile at Alexandra Palace

The Smile put on a masterclass at a sold-out Alexandra Palace

By Adam Davidson

Main image (c) Sean McMahon @seandotcomm

The Smile are relatively new on the scene, making their debut at Glastonbury in 2021. However, the supergroup already has a huge legacy and fanbase behind them.

Before the band had even released music, there was huge excitement that spread like wildfire. That’s because the band is made up of Rock icons Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead alongside Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner.

Two years, and two albums later, The Smile have proven themselves to be worth the hype. Fans aren’t just flocking to these big venues like Alexandra Palace because of nostalgic memories of the 90s, but rather the exciting music they’re currently producing.

There must be a certain level of pressure and expectation that comes with performing as Radiohead. Therefore, starting The Smile gives Yorke and Greenwood creative space to experiment and continue to innovate without the potentially heavy burden that comes with the territory of Radiohead.

This experimentation and creative freedom was clear to see from watching this live performance. Greenwood went from playing bass guitar with a violin bow to playing the harp to using synths. Yorke played with a Laurie Anderson-esque vocoder and played around with vocal reverbs.

It was also especially exciting to watch Tom Skinner on drums. The English drummer used to play with the Jazz band Sons of Kemet and that Jazz element is important for a band like The Smile with the ability to improvise but also set the pace and the tempo. The combination of all 3 band members was a marvel to behold.

In recent years, Jonny Greenwood has made a name for himself as a prolific composer of film scores – with credits including, ‘Phantom Thread’, ‘The Power of the Dog’ and ‘There Will Be Blood.’

When you compose film scores, you have experience in creating these big and bold moments that evoke anticipation, excitement and drama within a big audience. That was perfectly translated as the Ally Pally crowd was hooked on these dramatic sounds.

The band only just released their latest album, ‘Wall of Eyes’, in January but are already performing new and unreleased tracks.

One of the highlights of these unreleased tracks was ‘Don’t Get Me Started.’ The song had heavy Dance elements and the bass from the beat vibrated throughout the whole venue. It was noticeably unique from the rest of the tracks that were performed and this could be a sign of what music The Smile will want to put their hand to next.

Jonny Greenwood has previously said that Radiohead wouldn’t want to tour again until they’ve got new music to perform. After seeing Yorke and Greenwood still at the top of their game, let’s hope it is sooner rather than later that we see them reunite on the biggest stages. The appetite is certainly there.