‘Hag Shavuot Sameah [Happy Shavuot Holiday], Israel!” the Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger shouted in Tel Aviv Wednesday night, as the legendary British rock group set off its much anticipated, first-ever gig in Israel. The Stones had pushed back the start time of their show to enable religiously observant concert goers, who were marking the Shavuot holiday, to attend.
The Stones began their playlist with “Start Me Up,” and went on to perform a setlist with 18 more songs, including “Angie,” which is widely popular with Israeli fans. A picture of the full setlist was tweeted by the group’s official Twitter account later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Chuck Leavell traveled to Jerusalem to visit its Old City; Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards did not join them. Jagger tweeted from Caesarea, and he and other band members were also spotted in a cafe north of their Tel Aviv hotel base.
The band resumed their world tour in Oslo last week following the suicide of Jagger’s partner, L’Wren Scott, on March 17.
The Stones touched down in Tel Aviv Monday aboard their private jet, emblazoned with their tongue logo, accompanied by some 70 staff, according to local media.
Wood was seen visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Tuesday, June 3, a day before the band's concert.
Part of the band’s European tour, the show is a historic visit — the first performance in Israel by one of the two bands that founded modern popular music. The other is the Beatles, whose Paul McCartney played at the same Yarkon Park venue in September 2008.
Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss, once quoted as saying he would retire after bringing the Stones to Israel, guaranteed the band $6.7 million (4.9 million euros) for the one-night stand at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, according to a newspaper report.
The band ignored pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, including fellow rock stars, to cancel the gig as part of a boycott of Israel over alleged human rights abuses.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee urged the Stones to abandon the concert, noting that the band had been vocal opponents of racial segregation in South Africa, comparing apartheid to Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Pink Floyd founders Roger Waters, a relentless critic of Israel and branded an anti-semite by the Anti Defamation League, and Nick Mason joined calls for a boycott.
Some artists have bowed to boycott pressure: US singer Lenny Kravitz cancelled a Tel Aviv concert in October after being petitioned by activists, citing a scheduling conflict. But this summer is witnessing a roll-call of artists coming to Israel. Justin Timberlake played here last week, and Foreigner, Tom Jones, Cyndi Lauper and Deep Purple played recently. Rihanna played last fall. Upcoming shows include the Backstreet Boys, the Pixies, Neil Young, and Lana Del Rey, America and Passenger.
Preparations for the large-scale performance began Sunday, ahead of what was expected to be one of the largest and most technologically sophisticated shows in Tel Aviv history. The stage was decked with LED panels brought to Israel by the band, and a 34-meter (111-foot) catwalk extended from the stage.
Following Tel Aviv, the Stones perform in the Netherlands on June 7, Berlin on June 10 and Paris on June 13.
According to their current schedule, they have the summer off before performing in Australia and New Zealand in October.