Radiohead in Israel: Tel Aviv show was band's longest gig in 10 years

Band received a fierce backlash but defended their decision to perform in the country

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Thursday 20 July 2017 10:15
Thom Yorke on the Pyramid Stage during Radiohead's headline performance, June  2017
Thom Yorke on the Pyramid Stage during Radiohead's headline performance, June 2017

Radiohead went ahead with their controversial gig in Israel and performed a show at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv on 19 July.

The band had come under an enormous amount of criticism over the show and had received pleas from campaigners and several of their peers to cancel, as part of a widespread cultural boycott in the country.

Artists such as Roger Waters, Ken Loach and Brian Eno signed an open letter by Artists for Palestine urging the band to reconsider.

They said that the band would be displaying double standards by performing in a country where "a system of aparthied is opposed on the Palestinian people".

Director Loach also wrote a second open letter, published in The Independent, which asked frontman Thom Yorke to meet with him to discuss the situation.

Rather than agree to a meeting, however, Yorke responded with an open letter of his own on Twitter, where he argued that "playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government".

"We've played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments," he wrote, "some more liberal than others. As we have in America. We don't endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America."

Ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters accused Yorke of "whining" and slammed him for his lack of communication with critics.

"I look forward to - if you feel like it, when you finish your trip to Israel, because you probably still will go - write me a letter and tell me how much good you did and how much change to managed to affect by chatting with musicians," he said.

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According to Richard Ferrer, editor of the London-based Jewish News, there was a "melting pot" of fans in attendance.

He tweeted a photo of the band onstage and quoted Yorke telling the crowd: "A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music."

According to reports, Radiohead performed a 27-song set and two encores, including some of their rarely-played tracks "Creep", "Karma Police" and "No Surprises".

The BBC also reports that the show was the band's longest set since 2006, with 27 songs in a performance that included two encores.

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