There is no gig on 1st October, but we start the day hanging out in the lobby of the Imperial one more time. I sit in what has become my favourite seat, with a discreet view of hotel comings and goings. Behind us Ed and the management are discussing a planned dinner in Tokyo and the problems of catering for vegetarians. I think I hear someone say “Thom’ll be OK if there’s plenty of sake.”
Tim appears and we swap a few more gems from my phrase book. I write down some useful phrases for the non-meat and fish eaters on a page torn from my notebook. Thom toddles along and sits with us again. He’s got all his bags with him. “I’ve got my computer in here, I can do everything on it now.”
I tell him about my brother’s attachment to his own macbook and a programme he uses called MAX, “Oh,” says Thom, “Jonny uses that.” He mimes ‘wall of electronics’ to indicate the amount of kit Jonny has. “If I had all that I’d stop singing entirely… so…” he trails off.
Jonny appears and Thom explains to him that we were talking about plug-ins…
Katsu shows up again and gives us a lift to the station where Yasuko and I get a train back to Tokyo. Keiko is sticking around in Osaka for a while longer. When we get back to Shibuya, Yasuko goes to pick up her Hamnett jeans (just like the ones Thom has.) It’s raining, so I go off to buy an umbrella in a shop called Loft. I call Keiko to arrange meeting later then look round more shops and drink more iced coffee.
When we meet we have some traditional Japanese food; as no one will let me eat the same thing twice, I have to try as many different dishes as possible. I’ve tried a lot of things that I’ve liked, but Keiko insists that eat the fermented beans that taste a bit like glue and I need a beer to wash them down.
Keiko explains why she can be a bit hesitant about including everyone else sometimes, she and I been doing this touring thing for a long time and she feels we’ve earned our perks. She isn’t keen on people going to after-shows if they haven’t done it under their own steam. I tell her I’m just trying to be nice and share, but I can see her point too. We have an increasingly drunken conversation, including much amusement about the automated announcer on the Shinkansen saying “brief stop” every time the train calls at a station, this has some how become a euphemism for going to the toilet. We go back to her house to listen to the B-sides compilation, Itch.
October 2nd, Sunday. Keiko is going to find the band’s hotel, but I should really see some of the city. We make a deal. She wants to take her mother to the hotel to meet Thom… and today I shall venture forth on my own to be a tourist.
I go to Ebisu and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (at Ebisu Garden Place, home of the beer museum where Keiko used to work.) There are lots of travellators at the station in an aerial walkway, this is the futuristic Japan I had been dreaming about.
The photo museum is a bit disappointing at first, but towards the end there are some contemporary exhibits that I enjoy. I eat lunch in the plaza and buy some postcards to send home. I managed to ask for everything in Japanese. I meet Keiko at Tamachi and we go to check our email in a manga library internet café. Today’s Radiohead News is the announcement of a live EP, to be released in November.
Back at Keiko’s flat I write my postcards and wait for Yasuko and Izzy to arrive. We set off for the Budokan on the underground. It takes time to cross town and there is too much hanging around for my liking. It’s very busy and I get the fear. We meet Atsuko and get inside the building.
We’re in the toilets. I had been assuming we had plenty of time it’s still early, but bloody hell they’ve started. I can hear the bass of The National Anthem thundering through the walls. This is not a good moment to be crouched over a traditional Japanese hole in the floor toilet with your jeans around your ankles.
Atsuko is waiting for me but the others have already gone in. She has a different ticket and I don’t have anything other than a pass and Tim’s word that it will grant me access. I have to go upstairs into the rows of seats, rather than on to the floor where the others are. This is a huge circular venue, the seating stretches up the curved walls almost all the way to the ceiling. I’m hyperventilating. They’ve started! I don’t have a seat number. All the seats are full.
I find myself repeating the most useful words I have learned in Japanese: “Wakarimasen! Sumimasen!”
The rising panic in the song matches how I’m feeling. The wall-shaking loudness of the bass-line mirrors the tension in me. The panic, the rush. Every time I think I’ve found a place where I can stand still, a security guard comes to move me along. I keep looking for the others but they are down on the floor while I’m in the vertiginous curved roof of the arena.
A uniformed guard moves me and my bag (I’ve brought a present for Thom with me) ever upward. I end up right at the top on the last row with my back to the ceiling. Gravity is still working but I don’t understand how I am managing to stay up here, plastered against the wall. How is this building standing still and not hurtling through space? I feel like I’m about to fall into the crowd below, the stage is so far away the band look tiny.
I feel awful and realise I’m crying. I’ve come this far and I’m at the back, so far away from the stage, the crowd isn’t very lively, I’ve lost my friends, I’m overawed and over the edge.
The band play for about an hour and a half. They don’t seem that into it, not getting anything back from this polite crowd. The sound in here is clinical, there’s no warmth. There is an undeserved encore of Pearly and I am the only person in the upper tier dancing. They do Like Spinning Plates and the atmosphere picks up. But by the time they’ve finished I don’t want them to come back out on stage again, I want this to be over. I put my coat on over my pass. I need a drink. I stomp off to find the place where we have to wait.
Astral Chris appears with a triple-A pass stuck to his chest, he’s been in the photo pit. He’s never been to the afters before and doesn’t seem to know the score. I want to talk to someone about my dissatisfaction with the show. I can’t explain it yet. We get into the room and there is beer. I grab one and leave him to mingle. I need a bit of space. When I tell Tim about getting stuck at the top and he says there were no seats left so they invented tickets for us. Oh god, now I’m being ungrateful and I feel worse.
Caffy is there with Craig, the journalist from The Face, I talk to them, he’s interviewed the band before and is the man for the job. He’s Scottish, and under the impression that I live in Tokyo, but I tell him about my world tour. I try to explain how I wasn’t feeling it tonight, he asks if I can always tell.
Tonight is 40 something, so yeah, I tell him, I can usually tell. I have more beer. Caffy thinks that his piece will be good and finally lay waste to all the “miserable bastard” stuff that keeps getting written. This trip is her swansong, after this she is leaving the industry. She says that the band have never got mad at her even when she thought she’d cocked things up and she’s learnt with them, but she’s going to have a year off, start putting gigs on herself.
Thom swings by and doesn’t hear me when I call after him, Tim urges me to go after him. I tap him on the shoulder and ask if he’d like an early birthday present. I give him the yellow gift bag I’ve been toting around all day. He takes out the T-shirt I found yesterday in Ueno, it bares the legend SONGWRITER in white across the chest. “I couldn’t resist it” I say. He gives his loudest laugh, a big whoop, and holds it up to his chest to show Colin. We have a half hug and pull the face. I try to explain why I thought it was a crap crowd and he pulls a serious face and I think maybe I should shut up about it. He shows me a copy of Snoozer, he’s rather impressed by a magazine that would put Aphex Twin on the cover. More beer.
The Americans have shown up. Jeff is talking to me about Japan and that woman is bombarding Thom with politics again (It reminds me of Belfast. Is she the same woman as was there? I don’t know.) I wish he would just tell her to shove off. She gives him a weighty tome about US international relations and he finally gets away. I pass him his gifts and rejoin Izzy, Caffy and Keiko.
As we were leaving, going downstairs, Thom appeared from a door on the stairs. He told us to wait. He went to the dressing room and came back with a bottle of vodka that they’d had put on the rider especially for Izzy. “Drink it with Caffy, she saved it for you.”
Yasuko and Atsuko are waiting outside. They’re leaving for Yokohama tonight but I decide to stay another night in Tokyo.