Earlier this year, Thom Yorke wowed the world with news that he and Johnny Greenwood, with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, formed a Radiohead-offshoot band, called The Smile, a project that made sense for them during the pandemic. The band (whose name comes from a Ted Hughes’ poem) is a mixed bag of all the best melodic and atmospheric elements of Radiohead, and finds them capturing the edge and wit of some of their best music.
Footage has just appeared of Thom Yorke’s first live appearance since the pandemic hit in 2020 at Royal Albert Hall as a part of the Letters Live program. As an intro to the show, Thom Yorke played The Smile’s song, “Free In The Knowledge,” which appeared on their livestream earlier this year, and dedicated it to the UK bands and musicians who struggled during the pandemic.
“I was told during the pandemic, along with all British musicians, that we should reconsider retraining,” he tautly joked. As satisfied as the full room of spectators, he seemed to revel in the chance to get out again and do his thing. His performance of “Free In The Knowledge” is a stripped down version, with just Thom, his synthesizer and acoustic guitar. “Free in the knowledge, one day this will end / Free in the knowledge that everything is changed.” Words that capture the hope of a pandemic that will one day pass, as well as the powerful reality of our mortality and the mysteries of the beyond. It is a simple, heartfelt performance of a song that we’ll hopefully see released in the near future, along with other great surprises in the form of The Smile.