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Grammy rehearsals with Radiohead: 'There's a surreality to it all'

February 7, 2009 | 12:36 pm


Radiohead rehearses for the Grammys

The 51st Annual Grammy Awards are Sunday night, and the rehearsal schedule for today is stacked with big names -- U2, Paul McCartney, Coldplay and Stevie Wonder -- but the day got off to an especially compelling start as Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead strolled in, shook off the rain and performed "15 Step" to the impressive accompaniment of the USC marching band.

Radiohead has racked up a fair number of Grammy accolades through the years (the band enters Sunday with five nominations for "In Rainbows," including its third career nomination for top album) but trophy galas are simple not its scene.

"I've called through years but the answer was always a polite no," said Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the show since 1980.

This year, the answer was yes, and there was crackling energy in the venue as the band ran through its  number.

Yorke arrived looking more like a fan than a star with his scruffy leather jacket, bed-head hair and khaki-colored backpacker. He danced a little jig in the aisles as USC's Spirit of Troy warmed up with -- of course -- the Fleetwood Mac hit "Tusk."

The crew of the show is hard to impress, but by the third take it was all eyes on the stage as Yorke gave an animated interpretation of the song, one that somehow sounds both cerebral and tribal.

"Can you make my voice sound a little bit less shiny," Yorke asked the sound team. "Take the top off -- I like the idea of belting it out with these guys."

The USC band members were clearly thrilled with the prospect of a national spotlight as temporary members of Radiohead. Afterward, Greenwood said the marching band was an idea that he and Yorke brought with them to L.A.

"It's something we've been wanting to do with this song for a long time," he said.

He also said he was a bit dazed by the Grammys and its big tent, which has room for the band as well as the Jonas Brothers and Lil Wayne. "We never encounter any of these worlds," Greenwood said. "There's a surreality to it all."

-- Geoff Boucher

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Related: Grammys sign up Lil Wayne, Thom Yorke for new campaign

Photo: WireImage