elton john 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Bucking the recent trend of international artists canceling their scheduled
shows in Israel, Elton John will be making a lightning visit here Thursday for a
sold-out show at Ramat Gan Stadium.
John will be arriving on his private
plane during the day, and leaving immediately after the performance, according
to a spokesperson for the show’s promoter, Gad Oron.
That setup will
enable John to avoid making any public statements about his appearance here. The
performance evolved from relatively routine to controversial in the last few
weeks, after artists ranging from Elvis Costello and the Pixies to Klaxon and
Dvendra Barnhart cancelled shows, following pressure from boycott organizations
or to protest Israel’s May 31 raid on the Gaza flotilla.
response to such pressures, the singer posted a message on his Web site at the
end of last month, after a show in Morocco, defending his decision to honor his
“I have always believed that music inhabits a world set apart
from politics, religious differences or prejudice of any kind,” he
“Throughout my career I have made a point of playing concerts in
challenging places, such as the USSR and Northern Ireland in the 1970s, Israel
in the 1990s and very recently Morocco.
Music is, and always will be, a
universal language, free from boundaries. It can and does inspire unity and
builds bridges between people, and I will continue to play concerts anywhere in
the world where I can encourage that unity.”
One group calling for John
to cancel the show was not convinced. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel recently
told the American music trade magazine Billboard that John’s decision to perform
was in line with his past controversial career moves.
“Elton John was on
the wrong side of history during the South Africa cultural boycott, when he put
interest over principles and played Sun City when hardly any self-respecting
artist would do the same,” he said.
“He is choosing to do the same with
Trying to avoid the political spotlight while he’s here may be
just one reason for John’s truncated visit.
Another may be memories of
his last visit here in 1993, when a long delay at the Ben-Gurion Airport border
control and an onslaught of photographers and fans ambushing him upon his
arrival at the Tel Aviv Hilton prompted John to immediately leave the country
without performing at his scheduled show in Yarkon Park.
“The singer had
to hop over sofas to get through the lobby of the Tel Aviv Hilton on Tuesday
while his bodyguards shoved and swore at the crowd. Two photographers and a fan
were injured,” The New York Times reported at the time.
“He hit the
button on the elevator, and said forget it, I’m going,” recalled the show’s
promoter Zev Isaac in an interview last year. “He was in a state.”
departure caused an uproar in the media, and even among the country’s leaders.
President Ezer Weizman, who was visiting a Galilee border town and being
entertained by a youth singing and dancing troupe, made an offhanded comment and
the headline in the Hebrew dailies the next morning read: “Weizman: Who needs
Elton John?” Following an appeal from Andrew Burns, the British ambassador to
Israel, John reconsidered and returned from England the next day to perform 24
hours later than planned.
Things will hopefully run more smoothly this
time, with soccer fan John being pampered with specific dressing room requests
in his technical rider, including velvet-lined couches and cable TV with access
to channels covering the World Cup.
When he emerges from his temporary,
air-conditioned home for his performance, it will feature over 20 songs
John’s over four-decade career, including sure crowd-pleasers like “Your
“Crocodile Rock” and “Candle in the Wind” along with later hits,
“I’m Still Standing,” and “Circle of Life.”
His band consists of
long-time members Davey Johnstone (guitar) and Nigel Olson (drums),
Bob Birch (bass), John Mahon (additional percussion), and Kim Bullard
The pop legend’s most recent show took place on Sunday in
Sofia, Bulgaria before 20,000 fans.
Regardless of how the actual show is,
however, the simple fact that John is showing up in Israel at this time
like a big hug enveloping the music fans gathered Thursday night at