After consuming the best Chinese meal of my life and many “Gintonics”. My hosts introduce me to the delights of proper Japanese karaoke. We murder a few Radiohead numbers while we’re at it, then we all spend the night in a rather anonymous hotel in the centre of Osaka.
About 11am, next day, we take the courtesy bus from the railway station to the Imperial Hotel, which is on the other side of town. Keiko has had a tip off from her contacts on the crew: the band are staying here. She’s booked a room here herself. She checks in and we meet up with Izzy. We hang about in the lobby trying, but probably failing, to look incongruous.
I need coffee or tea, my caffeine habit is making me antsy, so I go in search of a convenience store. The girls think the band will definitely be here today, so they don’t want to leave. I return after half an hour with a bottle of cold sweet coffee drink and a doughnut. Tim and Jonny have been and gone. I sit down and read my guide book. At 1pm the organ in the café below the lobby starts playing (is it automatic?).
As if on cue the band gradually start to appear. Thom comes over to us (of course he does, says Keiko). Tim spots me and seems surprised, but once I assure him that I wasn’t kidding – I’m really here, he makes sure we’re all on the guest list for tonight’s show. Thom takes a gift from the Katharine Hamnett shop from Keiko and tells her he’s already had a day off in Tokyo to look around the shops. He has a yoga mat in his bag, and when Keiko asks what it is, I say something about my mum doing yoga and how it knocks years off you. “Well as you can see…” says Thom, looking very jetlagged. When I tell him I feel a bit ropey due to last night’s karaoke, he says “Sake?” Before I can explain he tells me that Colin drank his way through a selection of sakes and had the worst hangover he’d had in 10 years.. .“You have to try it!”
They leave the hotel and everyone waves them off. The four of us go for a walk through a very long underground shopping arcade. Osaka is full of malls. We eventually find a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt. I try some and catch up on my tea drinking. The girls show me a huge slot machine arcade and then we have ice cream. Back at the hotel we head to the room they’ve splashed out on, we watch a bit of TV and Keiko has a nap. Izzy goes out, I crack open a beer and we wait for it to be time to head to the venue.
Later we take a taxi to Osaka-Jo, the arena is at the castle. There are food stalls and bootleg shirts and carefully organised queues for the official W.A.S.T.E. merchandise. Everyone else is buying stuff, but I duck out and find Katsu (Keiko’s boyfriend) waiting for us. We suss out the guest list and get our passes sorted for later. My ticket is for the 15th row, it’s seated but it’s not a bad view.
Clinic are the support here and they do their thing, as they’re wearing their hospital masks the Japanese just think the whole band have caught colds. At 8pm, very much on time, Radiohead hit the stage and start with National Anthem and it doesn’t matter that I’m sweaty, that I’m having a bad hair day, that I haven’t eaten since the sushi – I’m bloody well in Japan, I’m actually here!
The only audience noise is polite and in-between songs, there is a bit of whooping, there are a few Americans and Aussies in the crowd, about the same as the number of Japanese at a British gig. Someone heckles – “play some jazz!” and Thom points at Jonny. They play Spinning Plates and then Talk Show Host which sounds all over the place.
After the show, I feel very sticky so I change into one of the T-shirts I bought in Tokyo the other day. We are shown to the aftershow, it feels like we’re in a loading bay, but apparently this is it. The party is in a hallway. Tim comes by and we agree that this is just as glamorous as usual.
There are some folks from EMI Japan, but not many other people. Eventually a tray of soft drinks, tiny cups of orange juice and something called Pocari Sweat, arrives. The band appear one by one, Thom last as ever, they have got some white wine on the go.. s’alright for some…
Thom comes and stands next to me, the only non-band English person. He says hi to Keiko and Izzy. Phil comes by and looks surprised to see me, “You’re everywhere!”
“Well,” I say, “I couldn’t refuse a free tour of Japan!”
“Neither could I,” he says, “And I’m getting paid for it.” I explain to him that I’m going to Australia after this, I’m not just here for the gigs and he seems to approve.
Thom is surrounded by two geeky guys from, I think, San Francisco, who ask relentless questions about bootlegs and live CDs, he can hardly get a word in. They are talking about the show and he says they were trying to do Talk Show Host without the clicks (the guide rhythm) and it all got a bit lost somehow. I agree and have to join in the geek-out, because these boys aren’t going anywhere. I’ve never known Thom to be particularly into technical chat, what they don’t seem to realise is that he isn’t a fan, he’s in the band. Is he really going to know or care about the bootleg CDs that people circulate? Eventually a lady from EMI whisks him over to a group of people he has to meet. Izzy and Keiko talk to Ed.
When he comes back Keiko takes his picture with her phone and the EMI woman tries to stop her, “It’s OK,” says Thom, “She’s a special case.”
Outside we wait around by a fountain, I’m very tired all of a sudden. I find Yasuko, who I now realise wasn’t at the aftershow. She says she wants to stay out and gives me directions back to last night’s hotel, my budget doesn’t stretch to a night in the posh place where the band are staying. I catch the train but get stuck at the wrong exit at the station and have to take a taxi the rest of the way. I take a bath and watch an American sitcom, Dharma and Greg, if I remember rightly, much improved for being dubbed into Japanese, before I collapse into sleep.