Concert review

Christina Aguilera puts on ‘Beautiful’ show at first-ever Israel concert

Pop star proves she still has the vocals as she wows 14,000 concertgoers in Rishon Lezion with powerhouse performance, including a duet with local superstar Eden Ben Zaken

Amy Spiro

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Pop star Christina Aguilera performs at the Rishon Lezion Live Park on August 10, 2023. (David Granot)
Pop star Christina Aguilera performs at the Rishon Lezion Live Park on August 10, 2023. (David Granot)

Pop star Christina Aguilera wowed thousands of Israeli fans at her first-ever concert in Israel on Thursday night.

“Shalom!” she cried out to the 14,000 people who turned out to the Rishon Lezion Live Park to hear the Grammy-award-winning singer. “It’s so beautiful to be here tonight… this is my very first time here and I’m so excited.”

Aguilera kicked off the show with her 2002 hit “Stripped,” before transitioning into the dance anthem “Dirrty.”

It was hard not to feel it personally when she sang about “sweat dripping over my body” in the sticky, humid August air, as thousands of people danced and sweated along.

The singer paid no heed to the weather when selecting her outfit for the evening, opening the show in a leather jacket, and later donning leather gloves that stretched past her elbows. Her hardworking crew of backup dancers did not let up through the night despite the heat, with their glistening sweat visible on every jumbotron.

Aguilera, who performed in Turkey earlier this week and in Denmark on Saturday, told the crowd that she injured her knee shortly before departing for the tour, but was determined to come even if “I might not be able to do all the things I normally do.”

An aerial view of the Christina Aguilera concert at the Rishon Lezion Live Park on August 10, 2023. (Omri Silver)

With her signature powerhouse vocals, Aguilera made her way through her litany of hits, showing her millennial fanbase that she still has what it takes at the age of 42. Most of the crowd was singing along as she performed her first hit, “Genie in a Bottle,” which came out back in 1999, following it up with the contemporaneous “What A Girl Wants.”

The singer brought a special guest on stage for a duet of her power ballad “Hurt” — local pop star Eden Ben Zaken, who performed the song in her audition for the hit Israeli TV show “X Factor” a decade ago, launching her career.

“I heard a story about somebody who is pretty popular here… and paid tribute to one of my songs,” Aguilera told the crowd as she invited Ben Zaken on stage. “And so tonight I would love to bring this special young lady out on stage.”

The Latina singer also performed a couple of songs in Spanish, including “Santo” and “Desnúdate.”

Aguilera, who came of age in the golden era of teen pop stars alongside Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore, prefaced her 2002 hit “Beautiful” — a song about loving yourself “no matter what they say” — with an English-language message displayed on screen about the impact of social media on body image and mental health.

She finished out the show with the 2012 anthem “Fighter” and “Let There Be Love” — a musical tribute to her fans.

“My heart is so full seeing all of you and getting to see your beautiful country,” she said. “I’m so honored to be here and to experience all of this. I’m so moved and so inspired.”

The pop star landed in Israel on Wednesday and is expected to spend the weekend touring the country, including stops in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, before departing on Saturday.

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