Much has already been written about Radiohead's Friday night headlining set at Lollapalooza, and everybody is rightfully focusing on the sheer size of the crowd. The mass of humanity made it damn near impossible to get close to the stage unless you (a) staked out a spot hours ahead of time or (b) were an exceptionally pushy asshole. I had pinned my hopes to three songs in the photo pit, knowing full well that the rest of the set I'd be exiled to the fringes. Unfortunately, five minutes before the set they announced that you had to be on some special list to photograph Oxford's finest, so I found myself outside looking in for the duration.

Much has already been written about Radiohead's Friday night headlining set at Lollapalooza, and everybody is rightfully focusing on the sheer size of the crowd. The mass of humanity made it damn near impossible to get close to the stage unless you (a) staked out a spot hours ahead of time or (b) were an exceptionally pushy asshole. I had pinned my hopes to three songs in the photo pit, knowing full well that the rest of the set I'd be exiled to the fringes. Unfortunately, five minutes before the set they announced that you had to be on some special list to photograph Oxford's finest, so I found myself outside looking in for the duration.

This is going to sound all hippie-dippy, but: Live music is not so much about what you can see or even what you can hear it's what you can feel that matters. Visuals and sonics play a large part in that equation, but equally important is location. I could hear Radiohead, and I could see stick figures resembling Radiohead, but I most certainly could not feel Radiohead. Thousands of us stood there gawking from afar, aching to get close enough to dig deep inside the music. But it was not to be.

Radiohead from afar.

How to deal with this? Like any bad situation, you get used to it and you make the best of it. About halfway through the set I accepted my fate and wrung as much enjoyment as possible. And yet by Radiohead standards this show still fell short. Distance or no distance, this still should have been a blast one of my favorite bands of all time performing for an adoring throng but it was merely OK. I blame Radiohead for this.

Others have faulted the song selection, but I have few complaints about the setlist. Sure, "Exit Music" or "Just" would have been nice, but the dudes played all of In Rainbows, crowd-pleasers from OK Computer and The Bends ("Airbag," "Paranoid Android," "The Bends"), most of the crucial Kid A tracks (no "How to Disappear...") and solid Hail to the Thief material ("There, There," "2+2=5"). Even "The Gloaming," always better live, shone brightly thanks to a funky little bassline Colin Greenwood added in. Sure, there's no reasonable cause for busting out "Dollars and Cents" while Amnesiac's many superior songs went wanting, but that's a minor gripe.

No, the setlist was not the problem. The problem was Radiohead didn't seem like they wanted to be there. I mean, the light show should not be the best part of the performance.

They always seem to take a few songs to get into a groove, but I'm not sure they ever really did here. Despite his reputation as a sourpuss, Thom Yorke usually indulges the crowd with some witty banter, but there was none to be had Friday, not even a "Vote for Obama" spiel. What's worse, Jonny Greenwood eschewed many of his fine lead guitar parts for half-assed improvisation that robbed songs like "Lucky" of their climactic power. There was no energy, no charisma, no passion. These guys were playing like they were on the clock, save for Colin Greenwood, and even he kept flubbing notes.

It's a credit to their monumental collection of music that this set was still chock full of powerful moments, from the fireworks-assisted climax of "Fake Plastic Trees" to the head-bobbing glory of "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" to the percussive catharsis of "Reckoner." But all in all, this was my least favorite experience with Radiohead. My four previous encounters were a mixed bag, but I came away from all of them thoroughly satisfied. I can't say that about the Lollapalooza set, a truth that saddens me greatly. So how about it, guys? Once more, with feeling!