Year in review: Top int'l performers in Israel 2012

Top 5: Madonna, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Alanis Morissette, Rufus Wainwright, Cirque du Soleil.

Madonna with gun 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Madonna with gun 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It cannot be taken for granted that big international acts will always include Israel on their huge world tours, so it tends to create somewhat of a buzz when they do. Music and entertainment fans in Israel were spoiled in 2012, a year that saw some of the biggest names in music arrive to perform in the Holy Land.
There were those acts that have cast aside international pressure and visited Israel to perform in the past, such as Madonna and Rufus Wainwright. This year also saw debut performances of some acts that Israeli audiences have been waiting see for over a decade, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In a show of defiance against those who called on her not to perform in Israel, not only did Madonna include Israel on her tour, she went one stage further and launched her 2012 MDNA World Tour at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan this May.
After opening the show uttering the words “Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. And I detest all my sins because I dreamt the loss of heaven and the pains of hell,” the Queen of Pop performed many of her classics, including lighter numbers such as “Express Yourself,” as well as the raunchy songs such as, “Like a Virgin,” and spiritual ones such as “Like a Prayer.”
Midway through the concert, she stopped the music to talk about politics and her hope for peace in the region and the world. She made vague references to a two-state solution when she spoke of Israel and Palestine, and giving away land. “I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason,” she said. “All the conflicts that occur here [in the Middle East] and have been occurring here for thousands of years; they have to stop.”
She ended the concert wishing everyone shalom and salaam.
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Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers rocked Tel Aviv’s Ganei Yehoshua in September when they performed in Israel for the first time. Depending on whom you ask, the concert either began 10 minutes late – pretty punctual for rock stars – or 11 years late, after a canceled 2001 show.
Yet when the California rockers took the stage to play “Monarchy of Roses” from the band’s latest album I’m With You, the crowd of 50,000 fans in the audience didn’t care about timing, wasting no time to start swaying to the music.
Vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary forgot their shirts at home, as usual – and many young men in the audience followed their lead.
The band played a handful of singles from their most recent album but stuck to their better-known hits for most of the nearly two-hour concert. There hardly seemed to be any breathing room in Ganei Yehoshua, but the audience found space to jump and head-bang along to “Can’t Stop,” “Give It Away” and “By the Way.” Fans knew every word to “Under the Bridge” and “Californication” and clapped along with the Chili Peppers’ excellent cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
The most poignant moments of the concert were dedicated to Israeli-born Red Hot Chili Peppers’ founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died of an overdose in 1988. The band dedicated “Otherside” to Slovak’s hometown, Haifa, at the beginning of the show, and later paid a more obvious tribute, with Flea saying, “Hillel Slovak forever!”
Alanis Morissette
A varied crowd lined up outside the Nokia Arena in December to see Alanis Morissette’s first concert in Israel since 2000. Despite social media threats demanding that she boycott Israel, the 38-year-old Canadian-American singer-songwriter performed to a sold-out crowd in Tel Aviv.
Throughout her performance, Morissette expressed support to the Israeli people, and at some point in the concert the band organ played the traditional Hebrew song, “Hine Ma Tov" (Here Is What’s Good) which the audience immediately recognized and sang along to.
A mostly adult crowd, it was clear that fans from her Jagged Little Pill days dominated the audience, rising from their seats and singing along to classic tracks such as "Ironic," "You Learn," and "Head Over Feet." Her performance of "You Oughta Know" drew the loudest participation from the audience, which knew each and every single word to one of her most popular songs, from her best-selling album. Seventeen years after the track was originally released, Morissette still performed the song with the same passion and venom she was known and admired for.
While some fans at the front of the stage were waving Canadian flags, the rest of the audience lit up with their cellphones recording the event and moving them from side to side like candles to the slower songs she performed, most notably "Mary Jane."
The concert came to an appropriate end with the song, "Thank You."
“It’s been a great 2012, Morissette told the audience in Tel Aviv, adding that “we love you, we’re with you, America, Canada, all of us.”
Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright brought his own unique brand of glamor to the lush outdoor amphitheater at Ronit Farms on a humid summer night back in June.
The American-Canadian Wainwright, 38, who last played in Israel in 2008, exuded 1970s pop and charisma on stage, channeling Elton John as he furiously played the piano and belted ballads and new catchy tunes from his seventh album Out of the Game, released in April and produced by British musician Mark Ronson.
Donning a flashy denim suit, sunglasses and silver boots that shone brighter than the moon, Wainwright opened in dramatic darkness on guitar with “Candles” from his new album, joined by an eight-piece band, including singer-guitarist Teddy Thompson and doo-wop-style backup singers. The show felt like a true ensemble performance, with the saxophone-player, clarinetist, drummer and backup singers all taking solos.
“It’s interesting to be here because I have a Jewish daughter,” he said charmingly, referring to his daughter Viva Wainwright Cohen, born to Leonard Cohen’s daughter Lorca Cohen last year.
“I heard the Cohens are pretty high up there so I better behave,” he said.
Cirque du Soleil
It may have taken 18 years for Cirque du Soleil's signature production Alegria to come to Israel, but judging by the warm Israeli crowd's standing ovation at the Nokia Arena in August, it was well worth the wait.
The 55 talented performers from around the world jumped, balanced and "flew" their way through the two hour-long performance.
The performers did a great job of transporting the Israeli crowd into a fiery fantasy world, but this proved too much for some in the upper tiers who called out to turn up the air conditioning, before being shouted at and then shushed by other spectators. While the clown on stage at the time was obviously affected by the short shouting match which ensued, he continued in a professorial manner. It was as if the script writers 18 years ago had anticipated the Israeli summer heat, because a couple of minutes after the shouting match ended a massive wind machine blew cold air all over the stage and audience with blue confetti covering the entire arena, accompanied by dramatic music. With plenty of ironic laughter, the first half ended on a high.
When the entire cast returned to the stage after the finale to take their bows they were met by a standing ovation from the audience, which included Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Tovah Lazaroff, Lahav Harkov, Hadas Parush and Rachel Marder contributed to this report