Over the summer Hail To The Thief is released in the UK accompanied by a hail of promo. Radiohead are everywhere. I go to an Edinburgh Film festival screening of some of the “Radiohead TV” videos, at the big Odeon cinema with Melody. EMI’s share price is in the news. The band tour the USA, play Summersonic Festival in Japan. The juggernaut rumbles on.
When the winter UK arena dates go on sale, I spend over £100 on 4 tickets for Glasgow SECC and leave the rest to fate.
In October, in an idle moment, I enter a music quiz competition in The List (a Scottish events magazine) and to my surprise win two tickets, first class rail travel and a night in a B&B for the Aberdeen show. Because I have the time off work, a little money and the RHMB gang will provide shared rooms, it feels like a good idea to go on tour again.
I email Hilda and Thom and ask nicely to be put on the guest list as they’ve both let me know that it’s OK to ask. They both reply that I’m down for plus ones for the shows I want (from Manchester onwards, not Dublin, not Cardiff – I have beds and a plus one everywhere else). Hilda is very straightforward, she trusts me and she knows how important it is to me to be there. For big gigs like these, where communicating from outside with anyone backstage is always a struggle, it’s a great relief to know things are sorted. It’s also cool that Thom still gets his email.
Interviews with the band prior to the tour all seem to be about how mammoth the US leg of the tour has been and how they want these shows to be fun. This will be the last batch of live dates for a while, various babies are due and the chaps seem to be falling over each other to note how much they’re enjoying themselves. There’s a lot of chat about avoiding long tours and packed promo schedules while being in the middle of exactly that. The sales of HTTT don’t match that of OKC. It is becoming apparent that massive changes are afoot in the way the music industry works. Records get leaked on the internet, people aren’t paying for music like they used to.
In a pre-tour interview in Time Out, Thom is asked if ten years in, he’s still excited by touring. The front page carries the paraphrased “performing still gives me the horn” quote. Having “the touring horn” becomes the catchphrase for our tour.
November 22, Manchester, MEN Arena.
I am wearing my Scottish CND T-shirt. I’d tracked down a Yorkshire CND No Star Wars T-shirt (like Thom’s) for Yasuko. In solidarity, I sent in my subs to the local branch and got a shirt in time for the tour.
Kim has booked a room in the Mitre Hotel Inn B&B at the Cathedral next to the venue. We’re trying to be a bit more “5 star” on this tour. She says we’re past roughing it. She’s wearing her Vivian Westwood coat and regaling me with punk stories. I go looking for Picadilly Records with Pocki to fill in the day.
Back at the arena, there are a lot of the regulars queuing around the outside of the building, I speak to a few of the people I know from the RHMB, the At Ease crew are here too, but they make me jumpy. Keiko and I are on the list (and I shouldn’t worry about this but I always do until I have ticket in my hand and I’m inside the venue.)
We have seated tickets from the guestlist. Being in Manchester again is always a little weird. The MEN is huge and uninviting. The stage feels a long way away, even though we have good seats. The support for this leg are Asian Dub Foundation. Ed contributes guitar to a couple of tracks on their new LP. He lurks at the side of the stage and plays guitar on one song. I’ve seen them before in smaller spaces and they’re not an obvious choice for this job. The warm up music is still the Trojan Rocksteady Box Set.
I have new boots on and not enough room to dance.
All the gigs are going to be this big. I’ve spoiled myself for venues. There are some people sitting near us smoking joints and I feel queasy. Pocki, Wooly and Will were a few seats behind in the W.A.S.T.E. seats.
I have a sticky pass and there is a little room for us to be herded into afterwards. I run into Thom coming out of the bar as I’m coming back from the toilet. I thank him for the tickets and try to articulate how I feel about big shows without sounding ungrateful. I’m never well enough prepared for what to say and always wish my life was more interesting so I had more to talk about, and then afterwards I remember all the things I wanted to say. He was in a bit of a mood, I shouldn’t let it affect how I experience the show but I do. He can’t see the audience, he was playing like he was behind glass – in stadium mode. The bar was throng, he shouldn’t have gone in