James Blunt plays his first-ever concert in Israel to an adoring crowd

Raspy crooner plays his hits, but also some lesser known tracks that wooed Israelis

James Blunt performs live in Tel Aviv (photo credit: LAURA KELLY)
James Blunt performs live in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: LAURA KELLY)
British crooner James Blunt had his thousands of adoring fans alternately crying, laughing and dancing at Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena Saturday night.
In his first-ever concert in Israel, the 40-year-old, tousled-hair singer played his best hits and some lesser- known works to a cheerful crowd.
“Shalom Tel Aviv!,” he shouted out to the appreciative throng, following it up with “ma nishma?” “It’s a thrill to be in such a special country that I’ve heard so much about from so many friends,” he said.
Blunt is currently on a global tour for his fourth studio album, Moon Landing, which was released in 2013, but none of his recent music has come close to topping the success of his first album, 2004’s Back to Bedlam. That CD – and its most-famous single, “You’re Beautiful” – launched Blunt, a former officer in the British army who served in Kosovo, into the spotlight, and he hasn’t looked back.
Switching rapidly between keyboard and a variety of guitars, the energetic Blunt sung his biggest hits, including “You’re Beautiful,” “1973,” “Bonfire Heart” and “Goodbye My Lover” with his distinctly smooth and slightly raspy voice. The fans packed into the arena easily sung along to even many of his lesser- known tracks.
In a casual T-shirt and jeans, Blunt also kept the crowd laughing with his self-deprecating humor.
“Please sing along to this next song because you’re the cheapest backup singers I could find,” he joked at one point. Later he introduced a new song, “Smoke Signals,” (which he released in November on an extended re-release of Moon Landing) amid applause, but he warned, “Don’t cheer yet – you haven’t heard it. I might f**k it up.”
Though he only performed in Tel Aviv, Blunt posted a photo on Facebook on Friday of him and his band touring Jerusalem’s Old City.
He even made a comment that the parties battling it out ahead of the March 17 elections could construe as political: Blunt told the crowd that throughout his tour, he’s had a variety of crazy props on stage, including astronaut jumpsuits and even a landing pod, but “here in Tel Aviv, we have not been able to afford it!” He also poked fun at his small stature – he’s 5’8” – by telling the crowd that his favorite instrument to play is the ukulele, because it makes him look bigger. “This is the one I love the most,” he said. “This is the one I take to bed with me at night.”
Blunt also made light of his reputation as a balladeer, telling “all the husbands and boyfriends that were dragged here” that they were going to have to sit through “hundreds and hundreds of miserable songs.”
In reality Blunt kept the crowd bopping through most of the 21 songs he played, with more upbeat tunes including “So Long Jimmy,” “Postcards,” “Dancing with a Broken Heart” and “Heart to Heart” – plus an energetic sprint through the crowd. He even closed out the show by snapping a photo of the crowd. Though it was his first time in the country, considering the reception, I doubt it will be his last.