On February 20, Radiohead announced dates for their 2018 North American tour, and once again, the English rockers are not coming to Minnesota. In fact, Radiohead haven’t visited the Twin Cities since they played at the State Theatre in 1997. So why haven’t the band been to Minnesota in over 20 years?
While Minneapolis ranks at #46 in terms of US city size, and St. Paul at #63, if you look at the population of both cities combined, the Twin Cities fits easily within the top 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. There are a few other large cities that Radiohead haven’t visited recently — Phoenix, San Antonio, Jacksonville, El Paso, and Memphis. However, the band have stopped at other cities within those states. Meanwhile, the closest Radiohead have been to the Twin Cities since ’97 is East Troy, Wisconsin in 2003.
One theory about why Radiohead have been bypassing Minnesota is that we just don’t have the right venue to accommodate them. The band are known for being partial to large outdoor venues such as amphitheaters and pavilions, which we don’t have (yet) in the Twin Cities. However, within the past decade, Radiohead have been performing mostly at arenas that are comparable in size to Target Center and the Xcel Energy Center.
Another reason why Radiohead may be avoiding the Twin Cities is the band’s environmental stance. Since the mid-2000s, Radiohead have taken measures to make their tours more eco-friendly, like using biodiesel in their tour buses and using reusable water containers.
In various interviews, Thom Yorke has mentioned how much energy people consume driving to Radiohead’s shows. In 2006, he told the Guardian, “Some of our best ever shows have been in the U.S., but there’s 80,000 people there and they’ve all been sitting in traffic jams for five or six hours with their engines running to get there, which is bollocks.”
To combat these fuel emissions, Radiohead have chosen to play in cities that have adequate public transportation systems. “The idea is that we play in municipal places with some transport system alternative to cars. And minimize flying equipment, shipping everything,” said Yorke in an interview with Wired.
Maybe Radiohead aren’t visiting Minnesota because they’re worried about fans burning gasoline to drive to their concerts. Although the Twin Cities don’t rank too high in public transportation among U.S. cities, in the past few years, Metro Transit has taken measures to improve their systems. In the last 15 years, Metro Transit has constructed the Blue Line, Green Line, and A Line, and has plans to expand the Cities’ BRT lines. On top of that, in 2016, the American Public Transportation Association awarded Metro Transit the distinction of system of the year.
So if our public transportation is improving, why else could Radiohead be skipping Minnesota on their tour stops? In the past couple years, Radiohead have reduced the number of stops on their tours. One reason for this is to be more environmentally friendly. By visiting fewer cities, the band cut down on the energy it would take to transport them and their gear from place-to-place. Their 2018 tour only features U.S. dates on the East Coast, with a few stops in the Midwest.
Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien told Consequence of Sound that the band’s members want to take some “down time” this year to focus on solo projects. Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are both scoring films, and Ed O’Brien is working on his debut solo album.
How does it feel to live in a city that Radiohead won’t visit? Last year, Minnesotans took matters into their own hands and organized a concert in tribute to Radiohead at First Avenue. Local musicians gathered in First Avenue’s Mainroom to perform three of the band’s albums back-to-back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of OK Computer.
One of the performers that brought the music of Radiohead to First Ave was local musician, Al Church. “There’s a point, as a fan, where you just have to say, ‘All right, I’m going to take matters into my own hands,’” Church told City Pages. “We know a ton of people here that love Radiohead, and we just want to bring them together. There are a lot of angry Minnesotans who want to see Radiohead and never have.”
Will Radiohead ever return to Minnesota? Will our new-and-improved public transportation be enough to lure the band back to the Twin Cities? It’s hard to say. For now, Minnesotans will have to keep finding ways to bring Radiohead’s music to the locals, even if the band aren’t here.
Colleen Cowie is a student at Macalester College. She hosts the show Locally Sourced on WMCN.