Finally, the Rolling Stones are coming.
Like so many who grew up with “Brown Sugar,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction” and “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” blasting from record and eight-track players, I eagerly awaited the day the Stones would arrive and play the songs of my youth in the Holy Land.
“S-h-a-l-o-m Israel,” I longed to hear a gyrating Mick Jagger croak. The Rolling Stones in Israel. Validation, finally. We are good, we are cool, we are on the world map, or at least on the Stones’ tour map.
The initial reflex is to say that this is more than just a concert, but a victory. Sure, Elton John has played here, twice. And Madonna, And Rihanna. And Lady Gaga. And Leonard Cohen. And Paul McCartney. But who remembers them when Roger Waters baits us, Elvis Costello boycotts us, and Carlos Santana (Et tu, Carlos?) snubs us.
Weird, how perspective changes. As a kid I was glad when a stellar group like Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull or The Eagles would play Denver or Boulder, Colorado, because I relished the opportunity to go hear them. Now the news of a big group coming to Israel – generally a group I have never heard of, but whom my kids assure me is somewhat significant – I am pleased not because of an opportunity to see them, but rather because it is a small political victory.
Take that, you BDS scoundrels.
AND IF every rocker who plays Israel is a “victory” of sorts, then next month we will see an even a bigger triumph, because that is when Neil Young will arrive. Neil Young, the political activist. Neil Young, of the Left. Neil Young who gave us these lyrics about Kent State: “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio.”
Young is no right-wing rocker, like Kiss’s unabashed Zionist (and native-born Israeli) Gene Simmons – but someone from the Left.
Good for you, Mr. Young, a better man don’t need Waters or Costello around, anyhow.
Truth be told, we wildly exaggerate the symbolic significance of those few artists who don’t play Israel, giving them way too much prominence. We give front-page coverage to anyone who snubs us, but barely a notice to those who grace us with their presence. (Unless, of course, it’s someone like Mick Jagger and the Stones.) The Pixies, an indie-rock group coming this summer, canceled a tour date in 2010 after the Mavi Marmara incident, either because they were afraid to come or they were making a political point. I know of The Pixies not because of any fondness for their music, but rather because that cancellation was prominent news at the time.
“Honey,” I wailed to The Wife at the time. “You’ll never believe what is happening. The Pixies have canceled because of political reasons. The Pixies!!” “Uh-huh,” she said, wisely unfazed. “And who exactly are The Pixies?” And this summer, well The Pixies have rescheduled and are willing to come and play for our money. But that’s not news. Nor, truth be told, should it be. Not every artist who comes to our shores need send us into fits of joy.
BUT BACK to the Stones. I love the Stones, and was thrilled – just thrilled – when I heard they would play Tel Aviv. Surely The Wife and I would join the throngs who have so many youthful memories tied up with their songs: cruising with the windows open, walking through a college quad, dreaming of the future.
Then two things happened. First, the Stones announced ticket prices. And then they announced the date of their concert.
The tickets started at NIS 700, a heck of a lot of money, and I winced when I heard the news. NIS 700 is groceries for a week and a half, two-and-a-half tanks of gas, three weeks’ tuition for one of my kids.
And the date, June 4, happened to be the night after Shavuot, meaning that – as a resident of Ma’aleh Adumim – the only way I would be able to see the show without halachically violating the holiday would be to spend Shavuot in Tel Aviv. So that settled that. No way was I going to put out NIS 1,400 – three weeks of groceries, five tanks of gas, a month and a half of tuition money – for tickets for The Wife and I, plus a night in a hotel. I’d like to get some satisfaction, but not at any price.
By playing on June 4, the Stones solved my dilemma.
As much as I would like to go, I simply can’t. And I can rationalize to myself that the reason I am skipping this once-in-a-lifetime concert is not because I am cheap, but rather because of force majeure – scheduling the concert on the night after Shavuot.
THE PRICE of the ticket also slammed home another truth. Although we like to see these visits by the big acts as political victories, they are not. These artists are not coming here propelled by wanting to play in that scrappy, gutsy little Jewish democracy along the Mediterranean.
They want to play here because they make lots of money, which is a good thing, a legitimate thing, and one that speaks of normalcy.
But NIS 700 a ticket? That’s quite a lot of money. The price ensures that two things will happen: folks on a regular salary won’t be attending, and anyone who does shell out the big shekels will rave about the show.
Tell me the price of the ticket to any show, and I will tell you what regular people – not the critics who don’t have to pay for the performance – will say afterwards. Up to NIS 150 for a ticket, and people can be honest and really say what they think. Over NIS 150, and the likelihood that people will be honest about the quality will shrink.
Rest assured that when you raise the ticket to NIS 700, you’re guaranteed that no one will walk away and say, “Boy was that a lousy show, that Jagger guy sure is getting old.”
It’s human nature: If you pay that much money to hear a concert, you are going to like what you hear. At NIS 75 a song, you’ll love each song.
It’s like summer family trips.
When was the last time you heard someone take the kids on a family trip abroad, spend upwards of $10,000 on a trip, ask them how it was and get the following reply: “Horrible. Paris was humid. London was crazy, Disney World was overcrowded and a waste of time.”
No, that won’t happen. The more we pay, the more we like what we pay for – not because it is necessarily good, but because having paid so much, we would feel like suckers having forked out so much for something subpar.
The Stones are coming, but I won’t be among the thousands of standing, sweating, swaying, singing people in the audience who afterward will say how amazing the concert was. I’ll be at home eating leftover cheesecake from Shavuot and dreaming of the day that Bruce Springsteen arrives, the one act that I have assured my kids I would pay any amount of money to see.
And then I will secretly hope he comes on the night after Rosh Hashana.
■ A collection of the writer’s “Out There” columns, French Fries in Pita, will be published in June.