How Radiohead Fans In Tokyo Were Left High And Dry

All Radiohead gave was a date, a time and a place; the fans did the rest. And that’s where it all went wrong.

Yesterday (Thursday 17 Feb), I started to hear murmurs that Radiohead were going to play a secret show in Shibuya, a vibrant 24-hour shopping and partying district (imagine Oxford Circus on speed) in the heart of Tokyo, the city where I live. And it was going to be tonight.

This wild rumour sprang from a mysterious tweet on Radiohead’s Twitter feed in Japanese that translated as “Shibuya Hachiko Square, Friday 6.59pm”. Hachiko Square is a small paved area outside Shibuya train station, verging on to Hachiko Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection.

It was obvious that one of the world’s biggest bands would never be allowed to put on a show in this tiny patch, and indeed they weren’t going to.

Instead, the vast advertising screens that yawn across the Hachiko horizon were primed to host the world’s first screening of the video to ‘Lotus Flower’, a song culled from the band’s as-yet-unheard and suddenly announced new album, ‘The King Of Limbs’. The clip was to be preceded by a video message from head miserablist Thom Yorke.

In the end, that didn’t happen either, as reported here. By mid-afternoon Friday JST, the original tweet had been removed, and Time Out Japan reported that Radiohead’s Japanese label, Hostess Entertainment (who had avoided calls about the stunt all day), had given up. “I’m not here,” Thom Yorke seemed to be saying. “This isn’t happening.”

The public’s interest in the event had killed it: thousands of fans announcing on Twitter and Facebook their intention to swamp the underequipped Hachiko Square had caught the attention of a concerned police department. Plug: pulled.

I went down to Shibuya anyway, and so did several hundred Radiohead fans. “It’s been cancelled?” said Daisuke Ishikawa, a Japanese guy of about 25 who had waited with his friends for hours, when I broke the news. “To be honest, I had no idea what was going to happen anyway. I guess it could get quite dangerous if they’d actually played a live show here – it’s way too crowded.”

A non-event? Yes and no. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie in the warm winter air: Radiohead may have given a study in how to disappear completely, but the fans were enjoying their biggest get-together since the band’s last Japan tour back in October 2008.

If it had been London or New York, there might have even been a singlaong. Not here in Tokyo, though; that’s what karaoke booths are for.

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