(photo credit: Brian Blondy )
World-famous Spanish balladeer Julio Iglesias performed the first of two concerts at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Tuesday night. The show was the singer's first in Israel since 1998.
Iglesias, 65, dressed in his trademark sleek black suit, vest and tie, passionately entertained the crowd, which stood and intermittently sang softly along to his ballads throughout the relaxed and slightly melancholy show.
Accompanied by a five-piece band, a trio of back-up singers and two ballroom dancers, "Julio Iglesias in Concert" lasted roughly an hour and a half. Iglesias smoothly belted out his brief set list. To the crowd, he expressed his famously deep personal emotions throughout the performance by frequently closing his eyes and using his hands to further heighten the passion and pitch of his beautiful delivery of the lyrics.
Featured in the mostly down-tempo set was a selection of Spanish and English crowd favorites, such as "Natalie," "Mi Amor" and "Fools Rush In." All of the songs were well-received, although it was "You Were Always on My Mind" which garnered the loudest cheers and participation from the middle-aged to older attendees, many of whom brought their teenage children along for the experience.
Sitting on a bar stool between songs, Iglesias took several moments to share anecdotes about his personal connection to Israel. Quite surprising to the audience was his avowal that his mother was Jewish and that he himself was "Jewish from the waist up."
IN REGARD to the conflict in the region, Iglesias warmly said that he "understands your feelings and your fight," prompting a resounding round of applause from the audience. Iglesias also remarked on his past travels through the country and emphasized that Israel "is a part of my life" and that playing to an Israeli audience "is an honor."
Argentinean-born Israeli Nora Laybman of Modi'in was finally able to witness all of the romantic songs she had become so familiar with growing up. She believes that "Iglesias's romanticism is universal." And Laybman, who was lucky enough to acquire front row tickets, was in a good position to get an up-close impression of just how romantic Iglesias really is.
Also in the front row were plenty of other women who still hold adoration for the suave crooner. Throughout the show, female fans were presenting the Spaniard with bouquets of red roses and gifts. Iglesias's mentioning of past Israeli girlfriends from his first trip to Israel in 1974 only seemed to encourage the fans to sing a bit louder.
Indeed, Julio Iglesias has unmatched debonair credentials, and he lived up to his reputation as a man of passion. Despite his advice in between songs on the proper dosage of Viagra for sexual vitality and how he "makes love" with his songs on stage, it was actually more personally revealing to the attendees to hear of his Jewish mother's ancestral roots. Now his Israeli fans have another great reason to love him and his "body" of work - from the waist up as well.