We forgot the little ducks in a rush to get a taxi to the station to get a fairly early start, Myoko finds us at Ely when we change trains and it’s a nice journey. When we get there I drop them at the Holiday Inn and set off on foot for the college where K lives. I stop off at the market and buy a bunch of dark orange Chrysanthemums. It’s a sunny day and on my walk through Cambridge with the flowers, I must have been smiling because people smiled back at me.
K is stressed but has the afternoon off, we have lunch and listen to The Cookies (she is having a girl groups phase). I go out at about 4pm to get some more blank tapes and to swing past the venue to see if the sound check has started yet. Myoko is there in the cold but Izzy has gone back to her hotel for a sleep. Just then Thom comes around the corner with huge shades on and a big shoe box in a bag. I ask him if Jonny got his cake. “Yeah”, he laughs, “he’s been walking about with it all morning!”
I skip off back to the college, it’s too cold for hanging about and besides I want to see my friend. We drink strong tea, then later on Guinness and then raid yesterday’s papers for reviews. The guy in the Observer has completely missed the point. K gets dressed to go out and plays me some Shostakovich.
When we get to the Corn Exchange they are overly strict about who can stand where with which tickets. K has one she’s bought but I have to hang back and join a guest list queue and then wear my pass for the whole night. We’re sent upstairs but find that K has to go to the back, up high in a seat and I have to stay in the middle mezzanine level with a limited view through some railings and the ceiling of the tier above making for a weird letter box effect. There is no sign of Keiko and Izzy until the very last minute before Radiohead come on. This is my last gig of this tour and my good mood of earlier on has sunk.
They enter with The Bends and seem on good form. I have a terrible view from here but maybe tonight my recording will work. By leaning forward to see better I’ve lost my seat to a couple of people and end up having to kneel down for the whole gig, which made moving difficult, it doesn’t seem right to be seated for a Radiohead gig.
Lucky comes in the first half of the set and Thom changes the words in Man-O-War. He announces a new song, Bishop’s Robes, about school. “It’s like Killer Cars and will be on the next four B-sides.” Thom sings the entire song sitting on the floor, it’s a slower, reflective number. For once during Blow Out I can see what is going on across the whole stage I forgetting where I am and get into it. Maybe it’s just a different view from here, not as bad as I thought. It pulls straight into Fake Plastic Trees, Thom announces in his best BBC voice that this is being recorded for the World Service. The encore is Thom and Jonny doing Subterranean Homesick Alien and Nice Dream. Then Thom says “Some dickhead in the Observer, not that I read the press ever, but someone left it in the dressing room and I read it, three years after the event, it said,” and here he adopts a snide monotone, “’Radiohead don’t really have any good songs except for Creep… all that misery stuff doesn’t wash.’ And that’s the sum total of his opinion on Radiohead…” Lots of shouting from the audience. “And that’s why I don’t need the press…” and the chords of Street Spirit twinkle through the room.
They end on Stop Whispering, the “fuck you” drowned out by cheers. Then there’s a second encore of You with Ed doing lots of triumphant jumping. The band applaud the crowd and leave the stage laughing. Nice to see they’re making a habit of enjoying themselves.
I wait for K, we go downstairs and I spy Tim, having little to lose as it’s my last night, I ask for another pass from the pile he has in his hand. I stick it onto K, who is spoiling her glamorous rock chick look with a cardigan. I find Caffy and Izzy, who enjoyed the view from the special balcony. It’s all very organised here in contrast to last night and we have to wait for the bouncers to show us through to the aftershow bar.
There’s a box or two of bottled Fosters lager, but only Tim has an opener. I lean over and take Cokes from the bar for Izzy and the others. I take some photos of the Japanese girls. Izzy bought a fake fur coat from the market and she looks like a grey teddy bear. Thom has worked his way down the room, I get pulled into the conversation when a woman asks about the worry people, still pinned on his jacket. Are they from Peru or Chile? “We’re big in Chile apparently” says Thom.
He’s going home to Oxford after this.
“I’m going home tomorrow,” I say, and he gives me a hug, I manage to entangle my bangles on the worry people, but get unhooked before I damage anything.
“It’s OK,” says Thom, “They’ve still got their heads on.”
“Well,” I say as he goes, “send us a postcard or something from somewhere.”
“January!” he says, like it’s the light at the end of the tunnel of touring.
He makes about three attempts to leave, each time getting caught up in another conversation or having to go back for something, the last time he passes I wave and on impulse lift my camera, he waves back looming in to make an out of focus close-up. And with that he’s gone.
I hug Izzy and Keiko. I’m going. I hug Izzy again. They’re going to tomorrow’s show. Colin, always the last to leave, is still holding court with his Cambridge pals in the corner. K and I go out into the street. Duncan the roadie is loading up gear and laughing at a road sign near the exit. “Meeting place for the retired”.
We have soggy chips from one of Cambridge’s upmarket food vans and stagger back to K’s college. We finish the Guinness, I feel gently elated and all is right in the world.