What is surprising about the arrival of American pop superstars Maroon 5 and their performances in Tel Aviv on Monday and Tuesday night is not that it’s taking place at all, but how normal it feels.
After more than two years of little or no major concerts by international performers (or local ones for that matter) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting a top-tier musical act from abroad for not one, but two shows, at the expansive 50,000-capacity Park Hayarkon is an encouraging sign that the country may indeed be entering the post-corona phase.
Other artists on the way this summer include American rap icon 50 Cent, Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber, US alternative rock veterans the Pixies and world-famous singer/songwriter Nick Cave.
Maroon 5’s arrival here warrants special attention, as it marks the first time that promoters from Israel, the UAE and Egypt have cooperated on a major production.
The Grammy-winning band, led by Adam Levine, an American Jew with Israeli relatives, performed on May 3 at the Pyramids in Cairo before jetting off to Abu Dhabi for a show on May 6 at the Etihad Arena in shows promoted by the international giant, Live Nation.
Guy Beser, CEO of Live Nation Israel, touted the coordinated effort, saying “This marks a powerful, shared moment across the region and is of great significance to both the Middle East and Live Nation. This landmark event marks the dawn of a new era, and will ensure an easier process for bringing bands, global artists and festivals to the region.”
Who realized that the Abraham Accords between Israel and the Gulf Arab states would also result in a boon of live music that could flourish for years to come? The effects of such an eventuality are not just more entertainment choices for Israel, but a potential death blow to the BDS movement.
After arriving in the country overnight Saturday, Levine spent Sunday and Monday in Tel Aviv, where he and the band are staying, and visiting Jerusalem, where he was photographed at the Western Wall.
In a video posted to social media, Levine described the Tel Aviv coastline as “even more beautiful than I had imagined” and said that he was “super excited” to be in Israel.
Not to denigrate their efforts, but images and statements like that are worth more than all the hasbara campaigns combined that government ministries and spokespeople can muster.
Levine has millions of followers on social media who know nothing about Israel; or if they do, it’s only in connection with the conflict with the Palestinians.
A look at the amazing Tel Aviv beach or a tattooed Levine sightseeing in the Old City provides those millions of people with a view of the country that reveals there can be a duality when considering Israel.
Yes, there’s a conflict and there are terror attacks and there are disputed territories that need resolution. But there’s also this other side which has nothing to do with that.
Just as importantly, the arrival of Maroon 5 on its regional jaunt, as well as the other upcoming international artists, reflects the waning influence of the BDS movement.
Israeli concert industry insiders acknowledge that some performers – mainly youth-oriented pop and hip hop acts – have a tendency to shy away from Israel for fear of antagonizing parts of their fan base which is vocally pro-Palestinian and sees Israel as an oppressor.
It gets to some of them who already agreed to perform here, like Lana Del Ray, who succumbed to the BDS backlash after a Tel Aviv show announcement in 2019 and subsequently canceled her planned performance at a festival in the North.
Situations like that are inevitable, but they will become less frequent as more regional tours like Maroon 5’s take hold and blossom.
As more artists and promoters realize the lucrative potential it provides, it’s not beyond the realm of imagination to consider that the Cairo-Abu Dhabi-Tel Aviv concert circuit could become as well-traveled as London-Paris-Madrid someday. And the voices of those who continue to call for the boycott of Israel will grow fainter and fainter until they disappear in the desert breeze.