As Disturbed’s charismatic lead singer David Draiman began a mid-show rendition of “Hatikvah” before a sold-out crowd at the Tel Aviv Expo, the words caught me in a wave of wistful familiarity and nostalgia.
Draiman’s gruff, baritone voice singing Israel’s national anthem, like he did the last time the American hard rock giants performed in Israel in 2019, was different from the one played over the speakers of my US Jewish elementary school at 8:05 a.m. every morning.
And the hazy cloud of cigarette smoke above the 10,000-strong crowd was enough to remind me that this wasn’t my third-grade classroom. Yet the feeling of unified voices, proudly singing the same chorus, had not changed. The heavily tattooed man singing next to me, who had a shaved head and more piercings than I have fingers and toes, felt a bit less foreign.
The rest of the two-hour, 21-song performance took on a different tune, as the four-man band came out to strobing lights and ominous drums to perform their new song “Hey You,” fresh off the 2022 Divisive album. The Israeli fans proved they were up to date with the band’s newer music, emphatically shouting “hey you!” along with the introductory lyrics.
The band continued to bring a raucous passion, bringing it back to the early 2000’s with “Stupify” and “Ten Thousand Fists” as he egged on the crowd, with Draiman, who attended Jewish day schools throughout his youth and trained as a cantor, shouting “I can’t hear you!” in Hebrew.
The Chicago-born group began to mix up the energy, occasionally switching to more melodic tracks like “Prayer” before transitioning into a distorted, amped-up solo by guitarist Dan Donegan, and the vicious percussion of “Bad Man.”
But Draiman soon switched to a more somber tone for the song “A Reason to Fight,” a ballad chronicling the struggles of addiction and depression. The singer sat in tears for a few moments before discussing his own struggles with the crowd.
“I apologize, I’m still not able to get through that song,” he told the crowd. “The demons that are known as addiction and depression are very, very real. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of watching my friends die.”
Draiman asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had ever struggled with addiction and depression, to which he said, “Look around, you are not alone.”
The show carried on with hits like “Never Again” and “The Game” while mixing in another guitar solo and an extended drum solo by Mike Wengren.
After a performance of “The Sound of Silence,” their well-known cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s hit, the stage went dark and Draiman disappeared from the stage for a few moments.
As flashing, blinding white lights changed to red, and cannon sounds blasted through the speaker, an Israeli flag became the background as Draiman and his band members retook the stage, now sporting Israeli Defense force tank tops to the tune of the song “Indestructible.”
The band settled down as Draiman did his a capella version of “Hatikva” with 10,000 accompanists. Then, abruptly, he invited a young couple to the stage for a public marriage proposal, drawing gasps from the crowd. The music cut again as Draiman took center stage to speak once again
“As you can see by my attire, I couldn’t be more proud to be Jewish, Israeli.”
Draiman's response to Roger Waters
Abruptly, he switched his tone and took on his familiar foes on social media – Israel haters.
“F*** Roger Waters and all the rest of his fucking BDS nonsense. We don’t need that shit. We’ve survived worse than that and will continue surviving worse than that. We know the truth, history knows the truth, we’re not going any-f***ing where!”
The speech drew chants of “David, David” from the crowd.
After the songs “The Light” and “Stricken,” Draiman teased the crowd, saying “laila tov!” leaving some wondering if he was really finished.
But the percussion started back up and the lights flashed again. “Wait, he’s not done yet!” a concertgoer shouted.
The band finished the show on a high note, capping off the show with passionate performances of the songs “Unstoppable,” “Down with the Sickness,” and “Inside the Fire.”
“We’ll see you again soon, I promise you,” Draiman said. “F*** BDS, peace.”