Defying calls from BDS activists, Radiohead rocks Tel Aviv
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Defying calls from BDS activists, Radiohead rocks Tel Aviv

UK band plays to 47,000 Israeli fans in Yarkon Park, brushes off criticism from Israel boycotters

Radiohead plays in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park on July 19, 2017 (J Horovitz / Times of Israel)
Radiohead plays in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park on July 19, 2017 (J Horovitz / Times of Israel)

Radiohead returned to Israel for the fourth time, playing to a crowd of some 47,000 fans on Wednesday on a hot and humid Tel Aviv night.

The band defied relentless pressure from anti-Israel activists who urged it boycott the Jewish state. “A lot of stuff was said about this,” lead singer Thom Yorke said from the stage toward the end of the show of the boycott pressure. “But in the end we played some music.” That was his only mention of the critics, during a show in which he repeatedly thanked the fans for coming, though he said just one word in local dialogue — yalla, come on, in between a couple of the early numbers.

The band played a 27-song set, including its first hit, “Creep,” which it hadn’t played at its last few shows. The song was a huge hit in Israel when Radiohead was still largely unknown in its UK home.

This was the final date on the band’s world tour marking the 20-year anniversary of the album that brought the group to international fame: “OK Computer.”

Thom Yorke performs with Radiohead at Philips Arena, Atlanta, April 1, 2017. (Robb Cohen/Invision/AP)
Thom Yorke performs with Radiohead at Philips Arena, Atlanta, April 1, 2017. (Robb Cohen/Invision/AP)

The band came onstage around 8:30 p.m., opening with “Daydreaming” from 2016’s “A Moon Shaped Pool.”

Unlike other bands performing at the outdoor venue, Radiohead did away with the so-called “golden ring” where high-priced tickets are sold closest to the stage, allowing all their fans to get up front, close to the band, if they came early enough.

The crowd was warmed up first by opening acts Dudu Tassa and Shye Ben Tzur.

Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis toured with Radiohead for the US leg of their tour while Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express opened at several of the European concerts.

Radiohead played their first ever international concert in Tel Aviv in 1993, but haven’t performed in the country since 2000.

Fans wait to attend a concert by Radiohead in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on July 19, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Fans wait to attend a concert by Radiohead in Tel Aviv on July 19, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

 

Radiohead also has a huge following in Israel, and has had for most of its career. Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead’s lead guitarist and keyboardist, is married to and has three kids with Israeli visual artist Sharona Katan.

Singer and principal songwriter Yorke robustly defended his and the band’s decision to play in Israel in the face of fierce criticism from a series of artists, notably former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters and most recently British filmmaker Ken Loach, who tried to pressure Radiohead to cancel its Tel Aviv concert and a planned university lecture.

Fans wait to attend a concert by Radiohead in Tel Aviv on July 19, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Fans wait to attend a concert by Radiohead in Tel Aviv on July 19, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Replying to Loach, Yorke said on Wednesday, “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America.”

“We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America,” Yorke added. “Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.”

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