The Smile shines as a musical force in their own right at Hammerstein Ballroom

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are known for their work in Radiohead, but the duo’s side project, The Smile, proves they are more than just an offshoot. Along with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet, The Smile released their debut album, A Light for Attracting Attention, earlier this year. On November 20th, they took the stage at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom to bring the album to life.

The Smile’s performance, which lasted for 90 minutes, included all but two of the songs on their album, along with a few newer songs. They weren’t focused on pleasing the crowd but on sounding their best. From the horror-movie waltz of “Pana-Vision” to the grunge slant of pre-encore closer “You Will Never Work in Television Again,” The Smile’s artistry was evident.

Although the side project shouldn’t be reduced to just a Radiohead offshoot, many of the main band’s best traits transfer over to The Smile. Yorke’s subtly entrancing stage presence, Greenwood’s unfettered focus, and Skinner’s drumming prowess were on full display during their performance. The show felt almost more like watching a particularly stirring instrumental performance than a rock show.

The Smile’s Hammerstein set began with the opening track of their album, “The Same,” a brooding synth track that builds in intensity as it lures you inward. Their performance was almost nonstop music with hardly any banter between songs and no elaborate stage decorations besides some flashing lights.

The setlist featured the following songs:

  • The Same
  • Thin Thing
  • The Opposite
  • Speech Bubbles
  • Pana-Vision
  • A Hairdryer
  • Bending Hectic
  • We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings
  • Read the Room
  • Bodies Laughing
  • Skrting on the Surface
  • People on Balconies
  • The Smoke
  • You Will Never Work in Television Again

The Smile closed out the encore with a more rock-leaning rendition of Yorke’s 2009 solo track “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses.” The performance was effortless and had the crowd dancing. Overall, The Smile’s performance was a testament to the artistry and musicianship of its members.

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