Tens of thousands of Israelis headed to Tel Aviv on Monday evening for an outdoor concert in Park Hayarkon by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Promoters said more than 50,000 tickets had been sold for the concert, taking place 11 years after a planned show by the band was canceled amid second intifada security concerns.
The band played for more than two hours, telling the crowd that they would “never forget this for the rest of our lives.”
The concert went off with nary a hitch, despite heavy pressure from anti-Israel groups before the show for the rock-funk group to cancel.
The concert was the first for the band after being forced to cancel a gig in 2001 because of security fears during the second intifada.
The band landed in Israel Sunday night with an entourage of 70 people. Flying in from their previous gig, in Istanbul, band members went straight to the Western Wall, attracting heavy paparazzi interest — including a stand-off with one photographer. Then they toured the Old City, and ate dinner in the Machneyuda restaraunt in the Mahane Yehuda fruit and vegetable market, before heading back to the Tel Aviv hotel where they were staying Sunday and Monday night.
The band ignored pressure from anti-Israel activists against them playing here. One Facebook page, “Red Hot Chili Peppers: Defy Injustice, Cancel Israel,” had moderators repeatedly posting comments that the band would be “playing for a segregated audience, nothing uplifting about that.”
In Beirut, Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila canceled their opening act for the Chili Peppers last Thursday in protest of the upcoming Tel Aviv performance, but the headliners went on to play the Beirut waterfront, with bass guitarist Flea tweeting, “Can’t believe we got the opportunity to play in Beirut. What a great place. Whooooooo. Hooooooooooooo. Thank you for your beauty Lebanon.”
Fans on the Facebook community page, “Red Hot Chili Peppers – Live in Israel,” shared photos of drummer Chad Smith posing with Lebanese soldiers and smoking a nargila, and putting in their votes for the concert playlist.
The band made no comments on Facebook, Twitter or in the press regarding the anti-Israel boycott. On June 28, they posted a nearly minute long video announcing their Tel Aviv concert date:
“I would like to announce our huge joy and pleasure and excitement and the thrill we have to come to Israel for the very first time,” bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary says in the clip, joined by singer Anthony Kiedis and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. “The original guitar player of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the great Hillel Slovak, may he rest in peace, was an Israeli.”
Slovak was born in Haifa and moved to the US with his family when he was five years old, first settling in Queens, New York, and then relocating to Southern California. He received his first guitar as a bar mitzva gift, and met two of his future bandmates in junior high school. Several members of the band were serial drug users and Slovak developed a heroin addiction, overdosing in June 1988 at his Hollywood apartment.
The band had planned to play in Israel in 2001, and more than 20,000 fans bought tickets. But the performance was canceled when the US State Department renewed its travel advisory due to the second intifada.
“We’ve always had a great love for Israel and never had the opportunity to come, and we’re so psyched,” the band said in its June 28 video.
An Israeli beatboxer and singer welcomed the Chili Peppers to Tel Aviv with a YouTube cover of By the Way. Isato Beatbox, a human beatbox artist, and female vocalist kartiv 2 (aka C-Van), whose other covers include the Family Guy theme song, Sexy and I know it and Call Me Maybe, posted the nearly two-minute tribute to the band last week.
In the comments section under the video Kartiv2 said she’ll be in attendance at the concert. The video has yet to go viral.
Greg Tepper contributed to this report