TEL AVIV – Radiohead kept it classy on a muggy Wednesday night in Tel Aviv, with the only reference to the vociferous BDS campaign being waged against them playing in the Jewish state coming from frontman Thom Yorke, who muttered: “A lot of stuff was said about this, and in the end we played some music.”
And play they did. Said to have been the iconic British band’s longest concert in 11 years, Radiohead played a 27-song set to an adoring crowd.
“We ain’t done yet. We came all the way here. We’re gonna play our fingers off,” Yorke said before launching into a third encore.
Some 47,000 people came out to show their love for creeps and weirdos and kings who stand up to boycott bullies like Roger Waters and other rabble-rousers who, as per “Paranoid Android,” hold an “opinion which is of no consequence at all.”
Former Pink Floyd frontman Waters infamously led a crusade against Radiohead – as he has done with many artists over the past few years – for playing in an “apartheid state,” even though Israel is no such thing.
Yorke ignored Waters, who was recently accused of being a “vicious anti-Semite” after comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, with the “Karma Police” singer telling Rolling Stone magazine last month that he refused to be “bullied” by people like Waters who “sh*t at us in public.”
Watch Israeli fans singing along to every word of the band’s breakout song “Creep.” Video: Deborah Danan
Radiohead’s Tel Aviv triumph served to counter last week’s gig in Glasgow, Scotland, where Yorke reportedly flipped off pro-Palestinian protesters and uttered “some f*cking people” into the microphone no less than four times.
But it wasn’t just about Yorke’s defiance of the boycott movement. Radiohead have enjoyed a longer love affair with the Jewish state than any other country in the world. Not America, not Japan and certainly not their native UK, where they were all but chucked to the dustbin of history as a “pitiful, lily-livered excuse for a rock ’n’ roll group” when they first emerged.
Yet, as the New York Post recently observed, it was Israeli fans who salvaged Radiohead from that dustbin, propelling them to superstardom. Despite failing miserably on the UK charts, 1992’s “Creep” took off in a big way in Israel, receiving constant radio play and topping the charts – eventually leading to a (successful) re-release back home.
Radiohead showed their appreciation by playing a series of gigs to delighted Israeli fans throughout the early to mid-’90s. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood earned a double whammy when, during an early tour, he met Israeli visual artist Sharona Katan, who would later become his wife and the mother of his three children.
Angered by pro-Palestinian activists’ assumptions that Radiohead “knows nothing” about the conflict, Yorke recently lashed out, “Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny.”
“He has both Palestinian and Israeli fans and a wife who’s an Arab-Jew,” Yorke said of Katan, who says she is proud of her Iraqi/Egyptian Jewish ancestry.
Arab-Israeli singer Nadri Qadri, who was scheduled to play alongside Radiohead in Tel Aviv, also came to the band’s defense, writing in an oped for Newsweek that as a “Muslim Arab woman” she will not be part of an effort by the boycott movement to “shut down the music.”
“Those who call for boycott are only trying to divide us,” Qadri said. “I was lucky to be born in Israel, and I am grateful for the opportunity to build bridges of understanding.”
“Sadly, there are too many countries in the Middle East in which such a concert could have never taken place,” she added.