Turns out, he was just a soul whose intentions were good. Clearly, he had just been misunderstood. Because here in the flesh, following local fave T-Slam’s opening act at a jam-packed Zappa Shuni Amphitheater in Binyamina, was Eric Burdon.
Less an Animal, more a stomping grandpa with a comfortable paunch, Burdon belted through a tight, blistering mix of greatest hits and newer recordings Thursday night, and was plainly enjoying himself from the get-go. The relentless death threats that led his manager to announce two weeks ago that he’d be canceling this Israel trip? Not a mention. The subsequent cancelation of that cancelation? Not a word. Just a big smile from behind his shades at the start, a “thank you, you’ve been a great audience” at the end, and half a century’s controlled musical mayhem in-between.
The Beatles and Stones contemporary, who’s now 72, was backed by a fine band of mainly veteran players, with Eric McFadden notably adding acoustic guitar flourishes to songs Burdon’s been singing since the 1960s. After opening with the appropriate “When I Was Young,” they gave us the anthemic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” fairly early on, Burdon punctuating the latter with a rap about “no more war” and “why can’t we live together” and “praying for some peace in this world.” This was not an Israel-Middle East war zone addition, but a familiar part of the Burdon showcase, a theme that he underlined by wearing a black T-shirt bearing the international peace symbol.
“It’s My Life,” another classic, and one that Bruce Springsteen used to turn into a veritable epic, was short but very sweet. Indeed, because the Binyamina late-night noise regulations meant Burdon barely had an hour on stage, most of the songs were taut and tight, and the better for it.
He did find time for a blues interlude — which moved from “Crawling King Snake,” via “Baby Please Don’t Go” to “Before You Accuse Me” — and proved his voice is pretty much intact. And his recent “Riding on the Bo Diddley Special” meandered enticingly along.
But the highlight, implausibly, was the closing, ridiculously over-familiar “House of the Rising Sun,” an introductory workout for millions of lousy guitarists the world over. How could Burdon, after all these years, make it fresh? Well, he didn’t. He made it mature.
When he sang the verse about “I’m goin’ back to New Orleans/My race is almost run/I’m goin’ back to end my life/Down in the risin’ sun,” he sounded at once feisty and content with the journey traveled. His two keyboard players, on either side of the stage, ramped up the swirling Louisiana swamp backdrop and Burdon, the white boy from Newcastle, showed, after all these years, that he can still roar like a southern preacher.
And then they were gone, leaving the crowd baying for encores. Burdon sent his drummer to explain that they’d have loved to, but evidently “It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want” is no match for the Binyamina city council.
A few minutes later, after most of the crowd had left, some of the musicians came back out to help the crew pack their instruments away. A handful of die-hards called out to Terry Wilson, the bassist, to thank the band for having played Israel after all. He came over, shook hands. “We wanted to be here for two nights,” he said.