(photo credit: Ricky Ben David)
Fans were treated to quite the show when hip hop/R&B singer Akon (finally) came on stage Sunday night at the Tel Aviv Port's Hangar 11. The performance was slated to start at 9 p.m., but started at 8:30 p.m. with several opening acts (seven, to be exact) including Alon De Loco, Subliminal, Hatzel (The Shadow) Metro and BooSkills - all prominent artists on Israel's hip hop scene. They did a pretty good job of warming up the crowd (for almost 3 full hours) by singing their latest hits and promoting themselves and each other (they were all from the same label - TACT Records - and kept referring to themselves as "Mishpachat Tact") by throwing various CDs and flyers into the audience, who in turn would go wild, shoving, pushing and pulling to get the precious commodities.
The fans were overwhelmingly young - in the 12-17 age range - and were adorned with appropriate "gear," including baggy clothes, NY hats and various forms of "bling." At 11:15 p.m., Akon was announced by his mohawk-sporting, kilt-wearing DJ and other crew members who wore "Believe in the future of Africa" t-shirts.
The Senegalese born singer rushed to the stage amid whistles, shrieks and more shoves as the crowd got increasingly excited and violent. Towards the end of his show, Akon even shouted to a man in the crowd to save the girl next to him from being crushed, yelling "Get her! Behind you, man. Get her. Forget me, man! Get that girl." The man (who was probably a boy) was not listening and Akon finally decided to dive into the crowd himself. It took several minutes for security to retrieve him and the girl safely.
Overall, even though the behavior of the audience left something to be desired (four different fights and shoving matches broke out in my vicinity alone), once Akon finally came on - seven acts and three hours later - he had great stage presence and gave a fantastic live show. It was a shame he only performed for a single hour, but he may have been dismayed by the crowd's unruly behavior. Despite the endless warm-ups and crowd chaos, Akon was worth the wait.