Al Stewart makes history in his historically-driven performance

Stewart, the Scottish folk-rocker, looks and plays the part of a 77-year-old veteran who has been writing and singing for over five decades.

 Al Stewart and the Empty Pockets perform at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2022. (photo credit: BEN COHEN)
Al Stewart and the Empty Pockets perform at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2022.
(photo credit: BEN COHEN)

On the same night that One Republic rejuvenated in Rishon the music that millennials have sworn by since the early 2000s, Al Stewart brought thousands of baby boomers to their feet several kilometers down the road at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv.

Stewart, the Scottish folk-rocker, looks and plays the part of a 77-year-old veteran who has been writing and singing for over five decades. And he made that clear to his audience from the get-go. “It’s a real pleasure to be here. At my age, it’s a pleasure to be anywhere.”

Tuesday night’s show, Stewart’s first appearance in Israel, was a combination of storytelling, history lessons, songwriting tips… and music, which featured Stewart’s dreamy voice accompanied by the very capable American rock band, The Empty Pockets.

Opening the show with the Sirens of Titan, based on the Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel of the same name, which Stewart himself could hardly understand, the singer shifted to a lively version of Antarctica. Inspired by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt to reach the South Pole, the song was the first of many based on historical events.

Stewart continued his history lesson in The Palace of Versailles, a song retelling France’s many past revolutions highlighted by a jazzy Mark Macisso flute solo and the outstanding guitar play of Josh Solomon.

  Al Stewart and the Empty Pockets perform at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2022. (credit: BEN COHEN) Al Stewart and the Empty Pockets perform at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv on November 8, 2022. (credit: BEN COHEN)

With the band more than warmed up, Stewart moved on to the first of his hits, Time Passages, the title track of the 1978 album produced by Alan Parsons. The producer continued to make his mark as Stewart moved on to another history-driven hit, On the Border. Touching on the Basque Separatist movement and the Rhodesian (modern-day Zimbabwe) crisis, the song brought out the best in Solomon both in his opening piano solo and virtuoso guitar play.

Taking requests 

The now charged-up crowd then made its presence felt, shouting out requests for fan favorites. And unlike many artists, Stewart complied. He launched into the Roads to Moscow, yet another historical song based on Germany’s invasion of Russia in World War II, followed by the upbeat Carol.

Returning to his original plan, Stewart moved on to the popular “Broadway Hotel.” He then gave the band a breather in Clifton in the Rain, a ballad dedicated to Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, John Martin, and the many other folk singers with whom Stewart grew up.

This was followed by One Stage Before and Almost Lucy, which featured the riveting vocals of keyboardist Erika Brett, who jumped up and down with joy at the song’s conclusion.

Recalling a story in which he was mistakenly identified by a 9-year-old as Cat Stevens, Stewart closed things out with another cat: The Year of the Cat, his signature song and title track of the 1976 album that brought him fame… and brought the crowd to its feet.