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Radiohead Rocks Tel Aviv

Playing its longest concert in 11 years, the band shuts down the BDS bullies with a gorgeous rendition of ‘Karma Police’

Liel Leibovitz
July 20, 2017
Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

“We came here for the first time in 1993,” Thom Yorke said, “and we played in this club called the Roxanne, right, Johnny?”

Johnny Greenwood, Radiohead’s guitarist, nodded approvingly. He’d met his Israeli wife at that show, 24 years ago. And I was there to witness it all: their flirting, that early concert, a great band feeling its way into stardom. And now they were back in Tel Aviv, at Ha’Yarkon Park, in front of 47,000 adoring fans. And with that brief trip down memory lane, they started playing “Creep.”

It was a hat tip, maybe, to Roger Waters and the other BDS creeps who tried to bully the band into cancelling the Tel Aviv show. And it was one of the highlights of a two-hour concert, the band’s longest in eleven years, that transformed a soupy July evening in a park by the Mediterranean into a cathedral of sound, cool and humming with notes of transcendence.

The show began in complete darkness, with “Daydreaming,” a pensive song from the band’s latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool. Sampling themselves as they played, the band’s members found their footing on the stage, and then unleashed a torrent of spotlights that hit a battery of mirrorballs and seared the stage with jagged brightness.

Israelis are not a subdued bunch, but the sudden illumination stunned them into reverence. The feeling prevailed through a 17-song set, studded with some of the band’s finest work. Then came an encore rich with hits—“No Surprises,” “Paranoid Android”—and then another encore, beginning with “Creep” and Yorke’s memories of that evening in Tel Aviv in 1993. The petty controversy, Roger Waters, BDS—all those seemed very far away. It was, as it always is with Radiohead, about the art.

Yorke felt the same way. “A lot of stuff was said about this,” he told the audience after three more songs. “But in the end, we play some music. This one is called ‘Karma Police’.” And you can enjoy it right here:

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.