Elvis Costello cancels upcoming show

Singer to ‘Post’: The choice was an agonizing ‘thirty-year conundrum.'

May 20, 2010 02:30
4 minute read.
Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Only two weeks after British rock icon Elvis Costello told The Jerusalem Post that the only answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through “dialogue and reconciliation,” he took himself out of the equation by cancelling two shows scheduled for June 30 and July 1 at the Caesarea Amphitheater.

Costello posted an announcement over the weekend explaining his decision to join the boycott of Israel due to the country’s treatment of Palestinians. “There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent,” he wrote.

Saying he couldn’t imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, Costello wrote that since the subjects involving the conflict “are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way... Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so, an end to it [the Israeli concerts].

“I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth. It is a matter of instinct and conscience,” he wrote.

Speaking to the Post on Wednesday night, Costello, 55, declined to expand on his written statement on his Web site aside from saying that his decision was part of a “30-year conundrum” that he had been dealing with regarding playing in Israel.

“The issues just became too complex and I woke up one day and realized I couldn’t go on with the shows,” he said, adding that there had been no threats or coercion against him.

Costello was set to make his Israeli debut with his new folk/bluegrass band The Sugarcanes, and in his conversation with the Post two weeks ago, he said that he had given much thought to playing in the country, but decided that he was against efforts to boycott performances.

“I know from the experience of a friend who is from Israel and from people who have worked there that there is a difference of opinion there among Israelis regarding their government’s policies. It seems to me that dialogue is essential. I don’t presume to think that my performance is going to be part of the process,” Costello told the Post.

“The people who call for a boycott of Israel own the narrow view that thinks performing there must be about profit and endorsing the hawkish policy of the government. It’s like never appearing in the US because you didn’t like Bush’s policies or boycotting England because of Margaret Thatcher.

“When you look at any democracy, no matter how flawed in the worst time when a government is in power acting in an irresponsible, violent and despicable way, the only answer is dialogue and reconciliation,” Costello added.

Alive Productions, which was promoting the Costello shows, said in a statement that it was shocked by Costello’s letter to them, which he later posted on his Web site.

“In the continuous contact we’ve had with Costello’s management, there was never even a shred of a clue that he was considering cancelling,” the statement said.

In a written response to Costello, Alive Productions appealed to him to reconsider his “sudden and extreme” decision.

“Back in February when you confirmed the performances in Israel, you were surely aware of the situation in the Middle East, and the existing long conflict between the two nations with different wants and dreams. You are probably familiar with the history and the global reality that we in Israel are confronted with,” the letter stated.

“Perhaps there, it is easier to bury one’s head in the sand and again use prejudice as a conduit to cultural discrimination against a large culture-loving public... Music should be a voice of peace and brotherhood, a unifying force and should not be turned off merely because the background noises seem too loud.

“It is impossible to understand how your participation in a music concert, that is totally apolitical, can be interpreted as a political act. However, there can be no doubt that cancelling a performance for political reasons, and refusing to perform in Israel, can only be interpreted as a very strong political statement. Your decision will only push people further apart and enable those wrongdoers to win through cultural terror.”

Culture Minister Limor Livnat on Tuesday commented on the cancellation, saying “an artist who boycotts his Israeli fanbase is not worthy of performing in front of them.”

Costello joins two other international performers who have canceled performances here this summer: Rap/poet Gil Scott-Heron, who told an audience in London last month he was dropping his Tel Aviv show because he “didn’t like wars,” and Santana, whose management attributed his cancellation to his European tour being shortened.

Alive Productions, which is also bringing Costello’s wife, Canadian singer/pianist Diana Krall, to the Ra’anana Amphitheater on August 4, reassured fans that they had received word from her management (which she shares with Costello) that she had no plans to cancel her concert.

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