Philip Selway's cinematic soundscapes enthrall Free at Noon - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Radiohead has been captivating audiences for years, cultivating sounds that have been difficult for many to recreate or fathom. Each band member is equally iconic, including today’s Free Ft Noon performer: Philip Selway. Although he is best known for his expert drumming in Radiohead, he has been making solo music since 2010, showcasing his eerie vocals and stellar songwriting skills.

On September 29th, Selway graced the World Cafe Live stage, performing music from his newest album Strange Dance. This show was grand, featuring four members of the ACME string ensemble group, brilliant percussionist Chris Vatalero, and of course Selway himself. All members were dressed just as elegantly as they performed, surrounded by warm lighting that reflected the blissful energy of the music.

The crowd was live, murmuring with excitement before Selway walked on stage. In between his quirky jokes about tuning his instruments and expressions of gratitude towards the crowd, the group played eight stellar tracks from the album Strange Dance. Selway strayed away from the drumset for this performance, mainly showcasing his piano and guitar skills. Instead, Chris Vatalero took over for percussive aspects, demonstrating one of the most unique approaches to playing drums that I have ever seen. His drum set was decked out in equipment, adding reverb and other distortive effects to the drumming. His snare was punchy, and he utilized a plethora of unique techniques when playing. He also had chimes and bells, always using them at the perfect time to add the right amount of ambient sound. This experimental style of drumming added an abundance of character to the show, peaking the interest of the crowd.

The string ensemble was sophisticated, moving their bodies gracefully in sync with the build-ups in the song. They were extremely versatile, going from a gentle entrance during the track, “Check For Signs Of Life,” to playing quick melodies that fit perfectly into the musical pocket during the track, “Picking Up Pieces.” The strings, although high-pitched for most of the songs, added a melancholy aura to the space, making each moment feel like an extravagant movie score. The ensemble even contributed vocal harmonies for the last track, “There’ll Be Better Days,” fully rounding out the song.

Selway himself was a stellar performer. He upheld a calm and serious energy, just as intense as the lyrics within his music. His voice was steady, but so deep that it created an otherworldly effect within the songs. His song lyrics ranged from themes of desperation to intense optimism. The audience seemed to be captivated by his powerful voice, as everyone watched the show in a trance-like state. Selway’s melodies on the piano were ingenious, proving his abilities as a well-rounded musician, both in Radiohead and outside of the band.

If you missed this Free at Noon session today, Selway is set to release a live album, titled Live At Evolution Studios this upcoming December, which will feature the Elysian Music Collective and Chris Vatalero. All of these musicians are amazingly talented, making this live album worth checking out.

Philip Selway
Free At Noon
  • The Heart Of It All
  • Check For Signs Of Life
  • Picking Up Pieces
  • The Other Side
  • People Of The Sea
  • Make It Go Away
  • Strange Dance
  • There'll Be Better Days
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