I can barely contain myself. I give up trying to have a normal day and go to the venue at 4pm to find some new Japanese girls have already formed a queue. I talk to some of the other keen types at the front, one has been to three REM dates including Milton Keynes, which has her converted to Radiohead. Another is a mass of teenage hormones and hyperventilation. It starts to get cold and I have a moment of de ja vue. Maree shows up at about six o’clock, I’ve managed to keep our place in the queue and things start to improve. I spot Tim and Caffy, they’re looking for Izzy.
I realise it must have been her I saw from the corner of my eye earlier on and we run up the street to greet her with hugs. She’s changed her hair, brought one friend with her and gained another since they arrived. They all come and stand in the queue with us, no one seems to mind. She saw Radiohead in the USA. It was like “Oh, Hi Izzy! Meet REM!”
I ask her directly how she can manage to afford it. She’s 25 and quit her job in insurance. She’s spending her savings and the exchange rate on the Yen makes it sensible to do that abroad right now. Phil passes and is asked “any spare tickets mate?” by a tout.
Inside the venue, there is a girl with green nail varnish who is impressed when I tell her I’ve seen the band so many times. She tells me I look like one of the characters from the film Clueless. We run for the front. There is no time for beer and we’ve lost Izzy because she’s trying to get a ticket for another of her new friends. We fidget to the funky intro tape until Sparklehorse come on. I’m slightly perturbed by the presence of a double bass, trumpet and banjo on the stage. In this Britpop era these are rarities. They do the maudlin melodic thing, so I close my eyes and drift away.
Tim the Tour Manager is putting out the set lists and lighting some Halloween pumpkins on top of the guitar amps. He leans over and tells us that Izzy and her pal have got in and there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all waiting and tension for a bit longer until the sampled intro and then the shimmering and by now familiar Alice Coltrane piece. With the pumpkins glowing on the amps, it’s all gone a bit magic, mystery and suspense.
Thom appears, hair even more orange that it had looked on Top Of The Pops, in a yellow plastic jacket, big red and white shoes and a dark polka dot shirt. Jonny’s in a floppy shirt, Ed’s had a haircut and Phil’s in bright green.
They go straight into My Iron Lung this will be visceral all the way, I can feel it. Then they crash through Bones and Anyone Can Play Guitar. Smiles and singalongs all round. They are really here and it really is Glasgow Barrowlands again! They do Vegetable, Prove Yourself, High And Dry is a big wallop of a pop song. They play Sulk to our surprise. They do Man-o-War (Oh God, oh God!) They do Blow Out and go off on one and then go off stage.
When they come back they play Lucky, beautiful. They have new gear, which is a bit weird, I’m looking for the familiar stickers and markers, they’re not there. Thom’s acoustic now has a “Protect Choice” sticker and Jonny’s Fender is already developing scars. Colin is being particularly funky and moving about. Jonny is actually looking at the crowd for once. Thom is all flailing limbs.
Maree blacks out and is hauled over the barrier during the penultimate song Street Spirit. They end on The Bends and I feel like I’ve been shot. I’m drenched (the bouncers had water squirters). I sit on the floor once there is room and try to recover. I need a drink. I’m wet through.
Izzy appears. She has a pass and so she doesn’t have to avoid the security guards who are starting to throw people out. I say goodbye to some of the girls I was talking to outside before the show. One has Thom’s sweaty towel… Maree, Sekiko (an older Japanese woman) and I retreat to the toilets and spot Paul Prentice selling his “official” fanzine on the T shirt stall. We mill around. I’m all panic and paranoia but I keep hanging on and hanging on. Suddenly the last of the burly security guys have gone and I see no obstacles. I make a dash for it upstairs, followed by Sekiko.
With a quick ‘Where’s Tim?” to Jim the soundman, which I feel legitimises my being up here, I head for the dressing room area and find… everyone! It feels like a scam. Apart from anything else, I had to see Tim to sort out the rest of the tour. He’s very cool about it, “Just write down names and places.” He can’t believe I’d not been given a pass, had bought a ticket and didn’t want to blag in a load of other people. No, I say, just me. Any gig but not London. I know the drill by now.
Izzy is drinking and is already funny. There’s no Thom yet but the others are all around, Colin is talking to a very boring man. We are perusing a copy of the Radiohead World Service fanzine which has the lyrics to Lucky.
I get my breath back and feel 100 feet tall. Caffy asks about the student paper I’m writing for and says she’ll send me some stuff to review. I ask if she’s heard from Val, but apparently she’s ill and is going to be out of circulation until at least February. She’s not coming on this tour at all. It’s a shame she’s not coming but I selfishly feel better for knowing it’s not because of anything I might have done.
Thom’s off being interviewed by the NME, he comes out of the inner room and then, Charlie Chaplin comedy style, goes back in again (to fetch his eye drops).
I’m feeling bold and come straight out with “You look knackered!” It was too hot and they’d got used to playing half hour sets as a support band so an hour and a half felt like a lot. Maree asks him about Sparklehorse and he says “That guy has melodies I’d kill for.” He wanted something different and not indie guitar, after “bloody Marion”. If not them, he would have had “a techno DJ or something.”
“Want to see something really disgusting?” and he shows us how the end of his finger nail has all but come off and makes a guitar strumming motion in explanation. Earlier Izzy’s pal, Keiko, had bought him some plasters, which he still has. Thom asks me if when they played here with James at the Barras did it sell out? No… he giggles as tonight it has.. “It was awful that one.” He remembers!
Tonight it was quadraphonic sound with speakers at the back, could we tell? Not from the front not really. Phil sees me and congratulates me on my rendition of Vegetable, I was singing it with feeling. Oh my god he can see me from back of the stage. He says it again, “You knew all the words!” When you’re getting killed at the front then you sing like you mean it. They all think I’m mad. I know it.
I ask about the gear. It just went. The whole van disappeared and they haven’t seen the driver since. It’ll turn up in 20 years as memorabilia. Maree gets to talk, the Japanese fans give Thom his presents, Keiko gives him a T shirt. Izzy, thinking of the Lucky lyrics, asks “Who’s Sarah?”
Thom leans in, conspiratorially, “An old friend… erm.. don’t tell Rachel…” It’s all in what he avoids saying. Ah we see. “It just scanned so well.. so there it is…” he grins.
Izzy gives Thom a present, all wrapped up, for his new house. I fidget with my Get Lucky badge (a black cat from an old book club) but don’t get chance in the huddle to give him anything. Thom’s off to bed. “See you tomorrow,” he says.
Maree is very happy as we go outside. I’m skipping down the street. I don’t remember how we got home. She sleeps on my floor. We lay talking in the dark, solving the problems of the world. Eardrum buzz and very little sleep. Excitement.