Nashville spent the weekend smiling

This past Saturday night, The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville hosted music legends Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and drummer Tom Skinner as their latest band, The Smile rolled into town. The side project is the latest in a long list of projects for Yorke and Greenwood of Radiohead fame. After many years as a photojournalist, I could honestly say this was one show where I felt in awe of the performers I was about to shoot.

These two men are not only responsible for creating music for one of my favorite bands but they also have numerous Grammy’s, Academy award nominations and are Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

This evening I was as close to legends as I probably will ever come. To say I was nervous would be a gross understatement. 

The evening of music began with experimental saxophonist Robert Stillman. His performance felt as if he was painting a picture of sound with his instrument. Slow building, progressive layered smooth horns over synth sounds cascaded out over the audience. The experience felt similar to the sensation of fingers slowly gliding over your skin while goosebumps pop up everywhere randomly. You felt immersed as an audience member, not quite knowing what to expect but feeling surrounded and warmed by his music. I am still not certain if he was freestyling or if these songs were deliberate but what I do know is I now have some new music to meditate on. He would ultimately join The Smile on stage for multiple song contributions later in the night and I highly recommend checking him out as an artist. 

There was no dramatic opening music as The Smile walked out on stage. Thom Yorke waved to the crowd enthusiastically as an explosion of cheers rang out. I heard grown men exclaim loudly to each other “Oh my god, it’s really him!”. It was truly something to see as such raw appreciation poured out from the fans. Yorke took his guitar from his stage hand, spoke into the mic “good evening Nashville” and immediately began playing their first song “The Same”. It might sound a bit cliche, but the entire performance felt magical. When you realize as a fan that certain musicians will always function on a higher talent level than others. There will always be musicians who can play instruments and write songs but others like Yorke and Greenwood are just born for it. I recall one moment during the song “The Smoke” a fan sitting next to me looked at me and said “it’s like the most beautiful wall of sound”. I honestly couldn’t come up with a better description if I tried. There was something about this night of music that made you like you were more than just an audience member, in some ways it felt as if they were putting on a show just for me. Not only did they play almost every Smile song available, he ended the evening with one of his greatest solo tracks “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses”.  I closed my eyes many times and just let the sound create images in my mind. Intense color explosions, soft golden clouds floating over a large pastoral plains. I can honestly say it was one of the most entertaining and lovely live shows I have ever witnessed.

For more on The Smile check out their website or follow them on Instagram.

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