Radiohead have a special gift for making glitchy sad bastard music sound warm, inviting, and irresistible. They've spent the better part of their three decade career writing songs about alienation through technology and anxiousness among crowds, and they've become synonymous with a certain strand of remote, operatic paranoia that evokes a 21st century version of Munch's "Scream."

But seeing them perform at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, one of several NYC shows they'll perform there this week, they seemed neither dour nor detached, but a swaggering classic rock band in the flesh at the peak of their live power (a peak they've sustained almost a decade now!). Radiohead's speciality on record may lie in their ability to mine the depths of melancholy and find emotional resonance, but live? The so-called most depressing band in history just plain fucking rock (and the light show ain't too shabby).

The group's latest album, the inward-looking A Moon Shaped Pool, was released in the long-ago days of 2016, and was followed by a hefty global tour. Although they have nothing new in particular to promote, the band set up some special arena dates around North America this summer with multi-night stands in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philly, Toronto and more. They've settled into a groove of playing highly varied, two encore, 25-ish song sets spanning their nine-album career, mixing up a dozen or so songs every night to make sure no one sees the same set twice if they attend multiple shows.

Bring down the government. They don’t speak for us. #radiohead

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While some bands shrink in power and lose touch with what made them special as they ascend to arena-sized shows, Radiohead is one that only gains from the wide-screen exposure. For a band so dedicated to turning angst into aural pleasure, their live show has become a pure joy delivery system, whether they're embracing the strobe-light adrenaline of "Myxomatosis" or nailing every moment of the spectral singalong "You And Whose Army."

It almost seems like a contradiction: how can a band so enamored with texture and nuance on record possibly translate those sounds live satisfactorily? But they do it, with Jonny Greenwood's glockenspiel propelling "All I Need" to its beautiful, chaotic climax, with the complicated polyrhythms of drummers Phil Selway and Clive Deamer on "Bloom," and with Colin Greenwood's funky and fluid bass work on "The National Anthem." On Wednesday night, Thom Yorke somehow didn't seem to miss a vocal note the entire show, with the biggest revelation of the show "Spectre," the rejected Bond theme that I would now count as one of Radiohead's best piano tunes ever.

The band has subtly updated a lot of their mid-period songs for the new set, with five songs from Kid A benefitting the most from the tweaking. The rhythm section has become a thundering hydra of acoustic and electronic percussion on their post-In Rainbows albums, and they've applied that Krautrock-inspired sound to those older tunes. "The National Anthem" is now an even sleazier beast with a punk rock guitar tone to boot; "Everything In It's Right Place" is faster and dancier than ever; and "Kid A" sounds like it could have come from side one of The King Of Limbs.

Other highlights of the evening: "Identikit" remains one of their best later-period songs and showcases Ed O'Brien's underrated and integral live backing vocals; "Daydreaming" is a beautiful understated opening to the show that builds into an extraordinary disco-ball light explosion; "Nude" is the sexiest aural mope in music history; they've finally cracked the live arrangement of "Lotus Flower," which is slightly more guitar-heavy now; and I am now prepared to declare "There There," with its four drummer attack, their greatest rock song (at least until I get to see "Paranoid Android" again live). Yorke didn't attempt a lot of audience chatter, but he did try to explain the significance of the politically-biting "Optimistic" and its relevancy to now. And he more than made up for the minimal banter with his now-signature, off-kilter dance moves, arms flailing to and fro in liquid motion.

It is of course hard to top the moments when the audience goes completely silent, hanging on every note and word of the likes of classics "Exit Music," "Fake Plastic Trees" and "No Surprises," which Yorke's voice echoing out into the chasm of MSG. Especially when it is punctuated by an arena ecstatically cheering at the line, "bring down the government/they don't, they don't speak for us." The night ended with a mass singalong to "Karma Police," whose anti-totalitarian lyrics are scarily prescient 20 years later.

After all these years, it's still remarkable to me that Radiohead have figured out how to weld their esoteric, experimental interests to populist, arena-packing songs. There were so many moments during the show filled with musical dissonance and strange chords that veered more toward modern classical than modern rock—and yet, those moments lived happily beside the pure bliss that is the moment when the band launches into "Fake Plastic Trees," and it feels like an arena of 20,000 people have mystically merged, on some level, into one unified organism poised to blow through the ceiling.

Radiohead's four night stand at Madison Square Garden continues on Friday night and concludes Saturday night. There are still face-value tickets popping up on Cash or Trade.