The Smile @ SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, 20 Mar

The Smile – Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, and former Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner – make a triumphant return to Glasgow

Live Review by Liam Casci | 25 Mar 2024
  • The Smile, SEC Armadillo

An atmospheric overture soundtracks The Smile’s arrival on stage alongside saxophonist Robert Stillman, as the capacity crowd at the SEC Armadillo vocalizes a clear sense of anticipation. 

Before a wall of lights, and four screens depicting a live feed of each member of the band, they begin with the title track to their sophomore studio LP, Wall Of Eyes. Enthusiastic declarations of love are bellowed towards the stage, though they soon give way to a concentrated silence from even the most devout, or drunk, members of the audience. We are quickly and collectively placed under the spell of the track’s darkly rhythmic pace as it builds towards an almost imperceptible crescendo. 

Thom Yorke playing a red electric guitar on stage. A spotlight lights Yorke and his keyboard, with the rest of the scene black.
Thom Yorke on stage at the SEC Armadillo. Photo: Serena Milesi

These are masters of their craft, and the energy is eclectic. From the groove-ridden rock of Thin Thing to the electronic-led beat of Don’t Get Me Started, we are kept guessing by the genre-defying experimentation that all three men have showcased throughout their respective careers. The music is soon punctuated by the freeing dance moves of Thom Yorke, which resembles all the best traits of an uncle who’s enjoyed one too many at the family reunion. He's feeling every note of the music, and so are we. 

While his bandmates remain reticent, Thom begins occasionally, and casually, interacting with the crowd. He instructs a loitering fan to “take a seat, mate”, shares a laugh at the interaction with the rest of us, before seamlessly continuing with his performance; totally at ease, an experienced frontman. Bending Hectic, the lead single from their latest album, translates brilliantly to a live setting. A tour-de-force of gentle momentum, it drives the entire set towards a hulking conclusion. When the last note finally stops reverberating they receive a well-earned standing ovation. 

A photograph of Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner playing guitar and drums on stage in front of rows of thin white lights running across the stage wall.
Jonny Greenwood (L) and Tom Skinner (R) on stage at the SEC Armadillo. Photo: Serena Milesi

They return for an exhaustive four encores, the last of which, You Know Me!, is a deep exhale of a track and makes for an appropriately subdued closer. They earn a second standing ovation before they exit the stage for a final time, cutting extremely close to the venue’s encroaching curfew. As we shuffled back outside, excited conversations can be heard through ringing ears, suggesting that The Smile is proving to be much more than just another side project.