Meeting People is Easy
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
kid who grew up watching Kiss and wondering if the rumors about
Gene Simmons having his tongue cut off and replaced with a cow's
tongue were really true, I've always been transfixed by the magical,
mystical aura that surrounds rock and roll.
it have been like to have been in the studio when Roger Waters
and David Gilmour were connecting their creative madness to create
Darkside of the Moon? How amazing would it have been to
have been eavesdropping on Led Zepplin's sessions for IV,
or been in Berlin when U2 were transforming from holier than thou
street preachers to slinky, sleazy street hustlers in the early
But what happens
when you take a group out of its four-walled element and expose
them to the rigors of the road?
called a tour.
But what if
it's more than a tour? What if you're Radiohead and you've just
released the most critically acclaimed album of recent history
- OK Computer
- and the world wants a piece of the genius behind the music.
How do four
blokes from Oxford, England - Thom Yorke, Colin and Jonny Greenwood,
Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway - handle the pressure of being the
most important thing to hit rock since Nirvana.
In Grant Gee's
tour documentary, Meeting People is Easy, we're taken on
a disturbing, moody and atmospheric journey through the flip side
of rock and roll - far away from the groupies, parties and glamour.
Call it the music world's answer to 'Heart of Darkness'.
The film follows
Radiohead from their first anxious moments before the inaugural
show of the OK Computer tour - May 22, 1997 in Barcelona, Spain
- to their final triumphant performance 104 concerts later in
New York's Radio City Music Hall.
we watch our heroes go from wide-eyed lads anxious to conquer
the world, to ragged road warriors stretched to the breaking point
by internal and external strife. Or, like the droning computerized
voice on "Fitter, Happier" says: "a pig in a cage on antibiotics".
taking the usual tour documentary approach and dwelling on individual
concerts or behind-the-scenes banter between the band, Gee's film
focuses on the absurdity of being an important rock band in the
current musical landscape - the shallow marketing of the band,
the endless stream of redundant interviews, the blinding photo
shoots and awkward television appearances.
"We were the
most hyped band in the world, number one in all the polls," snorts
Yorke at one point. "That's bullocks."
for the mundane moments, like when a Japanese journalist notes
in broken English that "the album is called OK Computer
but there is no song called 'OK Computer'." Or when Gee gives
us an outside-in look at the Paris show - only to point out the
borderline fans meandering back and forth from the beer line,
while the band is pouring its guts out on stage.
most telling moment, however, comes in Berlin, when guitarist
Colin Greenwood nearly breaks down during an interview with England's
NME Magazine. "I used to really like doing these pieces
but I hate them now," says an obviously exhausted - but still
polite - Greenwood. "I'm talked out. I feel like a vacuum without
a brain. I'm just so tired."
In fact, the
only time the band seems safe and confident is on stage. Free
from swarming media, video directors and other time leeches, Radiohead
prove beyond a doubt in the handful of live performances in the
video why the mantle of "rock's best band" was bestowed on them
by Rolling Stone, Spin and Q.
Look no further
than a soundcheck in Fukuoka, Japan, when Yorke's innocent strummings
on a freshly written song build into a churning behemoth of a
song that would sound perfect on a new album. Somehow, though,
between the dehumanizing tour schedule and whistle-stop performances,
Gee does manage to squeeze some bit of uplifting humanity out
of the film in a New York taxicab interview with Yorke.
thing about this is realizing that you could be one of those (meaningful)
bands to some people," Yorke said. "I remember listening to The
Smiths and REM and having every note imprinted on your heart.
I know how much of a big deal it is - the rest of this is bullshit."
itself is reason to keep going."
really the point of Meeting People is Easy. Fame is a trap,
and when you're actually doing something worthwhile - which Radiohead
is - the burdens on your personal and professional life is some-times
But as long
as the music keeps transporting you to another place, there's
always an escape.