REVIEW: Radiohead renews Israel love affair with marathon concert

‘We’re gonna play our fingers off!’ Thom Yorke tells Tel Aviv crowd during band’s longest gig for 11 years

In sound and fury, Radiohead reaches the parts other bands cannot reach.

Fury can wait. First the sound, soaring over Tel Aviv on Wednesday night during the final show of this singular band’s A Moon Shaped Pool world tour.

The diverse 47,000-strong crowd in palm-tree lined HaYarkon Park mirrored the melting pot of opening acts – Israeli-Iraqi-Yemenite Dudu Tass, Arab-Israeli Nasreen Qadri and Indian-based Urdu and Hindi musician Ben Tzur, who was joined on stage by Radiohead composer Jonny Greenwood.

As the searing sun set, Radiohead’s first set in Israel for 17 years began, with Thom Yorke and co emerging onto a spotlight strewn stage to squeals of joy that turned to spooky silence for abstract opener Daydreaming.

IMG_4216What followed was the band’s longest concert since 2006 (“We ain’t done yet. We came all this way so we’re gonna play our fingers off” said Thom at the start of the second encore). Twenty-seven tunes filled with moments that give goosebumps goosebumps.

“Back to save the u-u-u-niverse” in Airbag; “Ripples on a bla-a-ack shore” in Reckoner; “Broken hearts, make it rain,” in Identikit; “It’s gonna be a glo-o-o-rious day” in Lucky. Thom’s “You have not been paying attention” freak out in 2+2=5. The opening beats of Everything In Its Right Place and 15 Step. The closing bleats of Ful Stop and Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.

Orgasms each. But the greatest climax was Creep.

Back in 1992, while Radiohead struggled to shrug off its Nirvana-light tag back home, the band’s music – particularly its angsty anthem – played from Sanyo double cassette decks from Tel Aviv to Tiberias. “In 1993 we came here. Somewhere called the Roxan, didn’t we Jonny?” Thom teased his lieutenant, who met his Israeli wife during those gigs. “I think we played this one…” Cue mayhem.

These days, 20 years after OK Computer, Thom isn’t adverse to shaking his bits to the hits, so we also got The Bends, No Surprises, Paranoid Android and an extended Karma Police, which provided a blockbuster finale.

The night was as much group hug as rock concert – a welcome one too after the political ugliness that preceded it.

Anyone with half an eye on recent music festivals in Glastonbury and Glasgow will have seen Palestinian flags waved in the crowd by fans of the ignore-every-other-problem-on-earth Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, urging the band to cancel its show in “Apartheid Israel”.

Of course, the major wrinkle in the BDSers’ worldview is that if they were randomly dropped from the sky into any Middle East country they would pray their biased little backsides landed in Israel.

There is no second choice country in the region if you value women’s rights, gay rights, religious freedom, political freedom, free speech and a free press.

There is no second choice country if you want to take the piss out of politicians and not be locked or strung up.

Before the concert I visited Tel Aviv’s Carmel market, where you can buy a poster of Benjamin Netanyahu sitting on the toilet, trousers around his ankles, doing a number two. Try flogging  posters in a Tehran market of the ayatollah doing a pooh and see how long you get away with that crap.

On stage in Glasgow, Thom angrily stuck a middle finger up at the Israel haters. He didn’t need to lose his rag. After all, to paraphrase another poet, fury told by an idiot signifies nothing. In Tel Aviv he got it spot on: “A lot was said about this, but in the end we just played some music.”

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