It was a sombre and slow-paced concert in Toronto on Thursday night, when alt-rock band Radiohead took the stage in the city for the first time since 2012.
A British drum technician, Scott Johnson, 33, was killed on June 16, 2012 at Downsview Park in Toronto’s north end when part of a massive stage structure crashed down mere hours before Radiohead was due to perform. Three others were injured.
The band was not onstage at the time, but the concert was ultimately cancelled.
The mood was definitely heavy at the Toronto show, held at the newly renamed Scotiabank Arena. Lead singer Thom Yorke, aside from a few “thank you” remarks, did not speak to the large crowd until the very end of the show.
Prior to their second encore, Yorke solemnly stood in front of his microphone and waited for the crowd to quiet down.
“We… wanted to do a show in Toronto, the stage collapsed, killing one of our colleagues and friends,” he said. “The people who should be held accountable are still not being held accountable in your city. The silence is f**king deafening.”
He then stood back from the mic, head bowed, implying a moment of silence for Johnson. In an arena full of concertgoers, especially by the end of the night, it was tough to keep quiet. Sure enough, yells of “We love you, Thom!” and “Shut up!” echoed across the stadium. (You can watch the moment of silence in the video, top.)
Towards the end of the moment, a fan yelled out “Scott Johnson!” and a round of cheers erupted. Radiohead played a final song, Karma Police, to close the show.
Rave reviews of the concert lit up Twitter (though there was some disappointment at the outbursts during the moment of silence).
Other concertgoers thought the band’s set list and overall mood set a negative vibe, almost as if the band was blaming the audience and Toronto itself for the lack of progress in the stage collapse case.
“The moment of silence was cringe-worthy with those idiots yelling,” she continued. “The vibe was totally off.”
“It almost felt like they didn’t want to be there,” said another disappointed fan on the way out of the venue.
A fan who attended the concert posted a photo to Twitter showcasing the supposedly exclusive Toronto t-shirt for the tour, which has an image of the Grim Reaper.
Johnson’s father, Ken, said Thursday that he expects a coroner’s inquest into the incident to begin early next year.
He said he spoke with Ontario’s chief coroner on Wednesday and was told the tentative window for the inquest has been set for February or March. A representative for the office declined to confirm the timeline.
Starting the proceedings would be a step towards what Johnson hopes will acknowledge the series of events that led to his son’s death, and ensure safety precautions are in place to prevent a similar accident from happening again.
“They can’t bring Scott back — that’s obviously painful,” Johnson said in an interview from Birmingham on Thursday. “But it needs to be clear. I think people need to see what’s happened.”
Thirteen charges were laid in the case against the show’s promoter Live Nation, engineer Domenic Cugliari and contractor Optex Staging under provincial health and safety laws.
The subsequent trial was derailed when the presiding judge declared he had lost jurisdiction over the case given his appointment to a higher court. That decision led to a senior justice declaring a mistrial and a new hearing was planned.
Last September, those charges were stayed after a judge ruled the matter took too long to get to trial.
The development shifted the focus to a coroner’s inquest, which is an independent investigation designed to bring public attention on the circumstances of a death, rather than to assign blame.
Johnson said he remains in touch with Radiohead’s band members and was invited to attend the Toronto concert as a guest. He declined the offer to focus on the pending inquest.
“As much as I’d love to have been with them,” Johnson said, “I thought, it’s going to be a pretty tough night for them anyway. I don’t think I could probably add anything or make any better for them or the crew really. It’s something they’re going to find they’re going through on their own.”
Radiohead plays a second Toronto show on Friday.
— With files from The Canadian Press’ David Friend