At a rapturously received show in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on Thursday night, Elton John semi-dedicated his first hit, “Your Song,” to Israel and told the crowd there could have been “no nicer place” for him to open his eight-week European tour.
In an era when performers are routinely pressured by anti-Israel boycott activists not to come here, John — who last played in Israel in 2010 — said he and the band were “very happy to be back in Israel.”
Some 40,000 people gathered on warm early summer evening for the show, at which Sir Elton, 69, played a 27-song set featuring most of his classics as well as three cuts from this year’s “Wonderful Crazy Night” album.
He pumped his fists with joy and enthusiasm at the end of most songs, gave out plenty of “thank you”s and “love you”s, and took no breaks during the two-hour-plus show.
At the end of “Your Song,” about two-thirds of the way through the set, he told the crowd, “That’s Your Song, Israel” (at 3:42 in the video below). This was a sweet touch given that the lyrics include lines such as “My gift is my song and this one’s for you,” and “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” John has similarly addressed this song, on previous tours, to the cities in which he was playing.
Ahead of the encores, John left the immediate environment of his piano and made a rare foray to center stage, and declared, “Thank you, Tel Aviv. This is the first night of our tour and we couldn’t have asked for a better audience or a nicer place to play.”
He then played the hit “Crocodile Rock,” and, during a singalong section with the audience, returned to center stage to look out at the crowd. For the only time of the night, he even briefly lifted up his sunglasses an inch or two to get a better view.