Its shows may not sell out as lightning-fast as those of Bruno Mars and may not be as packed as Guns N’ Roses in Hayarkon Park, but American hard rock veteran band Disturbed has a secret weapon when it returns for a sold-out show on June 28 at Expo Tel Aviv: singer David Draiman’s passion for Israel.
In the midst of an international “Take Back Your Life” tour in support of the band’s new album, Divisive, which started off in the US before heading to the festival circuit in Europe, the 50-year-old outspoken front man sees next week’s arrival as a sort of homecoming.
“I’m looking forward to feeling the intensity of the Israeli audience again, and looking forward to seeing family and friends,” Draiman told The Jerusalem Post last week from the road in Europe. He was referring to the dozens of relatives in Israel, including his parents and a brother, and a backstage guest list that looks like a gathering of wedding invitees.
The family aspect isn’t the only thing that attracts Draiman to Israel. When Disturbed last performed for 10,000 fans at Rishon Lezion’s Live Park in 2019, Draiman spoke to the audience in Hebrew, donned a T-shirt with an IDF insignia and sang “Hatikvah,” proclaiming, “This is for all the IDF soldiers.”
“There’s no doubt that Israeli audiences have a different level of intensity because they’re not as blessed with as many performances as the rest of the world,” said Draiman. “Generally, when you leave the United States for Europe or South America, the energy level of the crowd goes up a bit, but especially in Israel because when shows do happen, they’re literally celebrating that the performance actually took place and nothing happened to stop it.”
A militant anti-BDS proponent with a highly visible and outspoken social media presence, Draiman said that he doesn’t understand why Israel is treated differently than any other concert destination on the itinerary of other touring artists.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time to visit Israel and absolutely nothing is happening. But you can say the same of Chicago, New York or any major US or European city. Look at Paris! There’s potential danger everywhere. If three years ago you would have told me there would be a problem in performing in Kyiv, I would have said you were crazy,” said Draiman.
“But I don’t think you can deprive people of the means to bring them to true escape and salvation in a way that nothing else can, simply because they live in a bad neighborhood.”
For Draiman, the tour is part of his own road to salvation. The “Take Back Your Life” moniker refers to setbacks that have plagued band members and Draiman over the last year, including a divorce from his longtime wife.
“It’s been an upheaval – divorce is not an easy thing to handle. It affects everything, not just my work,” he said in an earlier interview with the Post. “It’s been a rough start to the year, so it’s nice to be able to have something positive to focus on and try and get re-centered. But the darkness keeps creeping in once in a while.”
That includes a recent operation to remove a nonmalignant tumor from his forearm and voice issues that forced the cancellation of two stop on the European tour last week. Draiman has been resting his voice on doctor’s orders and wrote: “[I’m] doing my best. Should be ok I hope.”
Disturbed: Going from metal to mainstream success
SEEING THE vulnerability in the potentially menacing, black-wearing, bald-pated vocalist who can prompt thousands of fans to go wild with the pumping of a fist, is a clue to Disturbed’s appeal, described by Draiman as 90% heavy and 10% kind, loving goodness.
Along with his bandmates, guitarist/keyboardist Dan Donegan, bassist John Moyer and drummer Mike Wengren, they’ve sold millions of albums since their 2000 debut, and in 2015 they cracked the mainstream with a passionate rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” that shattered the heavy metal stereotype the band had fostered.
Hard rock site Metal Hammer called them one of the most commercially successful metal acts of all time, citing their streak of five albums debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as a feat equaled only by Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band.
The site’s review of Divisive said there were no surprises in the band’s well-developed amalgam of mainstream metal.
“Since the late ’90s, Disturbed has mastered the ability to craft muscular, radio-friendly anthems that have varied relatively little over the years. Long embracing the idea that what isn’t broken isn’t in need of repair, Divisive puts this principle into practice,” their review said.
“Thank god, we’re still able to write some great hooks that create catchy songs that stick in people’s heads,” said Draiman with a laugh.
“I’m very happy with how well it’s been received, and the band feels great coming out of the gate. That energy and exuberance we had while making the record is definitely going to translate into how people hear it. And I can’t wait to be able to unleash the songs in the way they deserve to be presented: in a live setting.”