‘Hag Shavuot Sameah [Happy Shavuot Holiday], Israel!” shouted Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger in Tel Aviv Wednesday night, as the legendary British rock group set off their much-anticipated, first-ever gig in Israel. The Stones had pushed back the start time of their show to enable religiously observant concert goers, who were marking the Shavuot holiday, to attend.
The band began its playlist with “Start Me Up” to a cheering crowd of some 50,000 Israelis, who made their way to Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv Wednesday night to watch the show.
Very heavy traffic was reported in the city ahead of the concert.
Guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Chuck Leavell traveled to Jerusalem Tuesday to visit its Old City; Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards did not join them. Jagger tweeted from Caesarea, and he and other band members were also spotted in a cafe north of their Tel Aviv hotel base.
The band resumed a world tour in Oslo last week after interrupting it in March following the suicide of lead singer Mick Jagger’s partner, L’Wren Scott.
Tel Aviv, will you please welcome THE ROLLING STONES! START ME UP #StonesTelAviv
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) June 4, 2014
The Stones touched down in Tel Aviv Monday aboard their private jet, emblazoned with their tongue logo, accompanied by some 70 staff, according to local media.
Part of the band’s European tour, the show is a historic visit — the first performance in Israel by one of the two bands that founded modern popular music. The other is The Beatles, whose Paul McCartney played at the same Yarkon Park venue in September 2008.
Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss, once quoted as saying he would retire after bringing the Stones to Israel, guaranteed the band $6.7 million (4.9 million euros) for the one-night stand at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, according to a newspaper report.
At the Amphitheatre at Caesaria today. Looking forward to tomorrow, our first show in Israel! pic.twitter.com/isczJ71zaw
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) June 3, 2014
The band ignored pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, including fellow rock stars, to cancel the gig as part of a boycott of Israel over alleged human rights abuses.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee urged the Stones to abandon the concert, noting that the band had been vocal opponents of racial segregation in South Africa, comparing apartheid to Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Pink Floyd founders Roger Waters, a relentless critic of Israel branded an anti-semite by the Anti Defamation League, and Nick Mason joined calls for a boycott.
Some artists have bowed to boycott pressure: US singer Lenny Kravitz cancelled a Tel Aviv concert in October after being petitioned by activists, citing a scheduling conflict. But this summer is witnessing a roll-call of artists coming to Israel. Justin Timberlake played here last week, and Foreigner, Tom Jones, Cyndi Lauper and Deep Purple played recently. Rihanna played last fall. Upcoming shows include the Backstreet Boys, the Pixies, Neil Young, and Lana Del Rey, America and Passenger.
Preparations for the large-scale performance began Sunday, ahead of what is expected to be one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated shows in Tel Aviv history. The stage will be decked with LED panels brought to Israel by the band, and a 34-meter (111-foot) catwalk will extend from the stage.
The playlist changes from show to show, according to Merav Lahav, part of the Shuki Weiss publicity team. “The Tel Aviv playlist won’t be released before the show.”
In Zurich on June 1, the band played 17 songs (“Start Me Up,” “You Got Me Rocking,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Tumbling Dice,” “Worried About You,” “Doom and Gloom,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Out of Control,” “Honky Tonk Women,” You Got the Silver,” “Can’t Be Seen, Midnight Rambler,” “Miss You,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar”) and two encores including (“I can’t get no) Satisfaction”.
Tickets were available until just before the concert, at NIS 700 apiece. According to local sources, some 48,000 tickets had been sold by Tuesday.
Following Tel Aviv, the Stones will perform in the Netherlands on June 7, Berlin on June 10 and Paris on June 13.
According to their current schedule, they have the summer off before performing in Australia and New Zealand in October.