TEL AVIV, Israel — Madonna brought her mix of provocative music and spirituality to the Holy Land with a concert Tuesday in front of 50,000 fans who had endured a 16-year wait since the pop icon’s last gig in Israel.
Madonna is wrapping up her worldwide “Sticky&Sweet” tour with two concerts this week in a country whose place at the heart of the Mideast conflict has made it more of a magnet for diplomats than big-name performers.
Madonna took the stage about a half hour late Tuesday night, opening with her 2008 single, “Candy Shop” and moving through a tightly choreographed performance that included a series of colourful costumes — beginning with a skimpy, black body suit with fishnet stockings and knee-high boots — and range of hits, new and old.
“I shouldn’t have stayed so long away,” she told the adoring crowd midway through the show, as she broke away from the script to express her affection for the country.
“Every time I come here, I get so supercharged with energy,” she said. “I truly believe that Israel is the energy centre of the world. And I also believe that if we can all live together in harmony in this place, then we can live in peace all over the world.”
The 51-year-old entertainer has long claimed a special bond with the Jewish state.
She’s been dabbling in Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, for more than a decade and has taken on a Hebrew name, Esther. She’s come on private pilgrimages in recent years. She has visited the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall in Jerusalem since arriving in Israel on Sunday.
Madonna was scheduled to perform again on Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, the same outdoor site as Tuesday’s show.
“One of the reasons she attracts such large crowds is that she has a special connection to Israel,” said Chen Shasha, a 24-year-old law student attending the concert. “Israelis appreciate the fact that someone appreciates them and approaches them and is willing to look into things such as Kabbalah.”
Israeli radio stations played Madonna songs through the day Tuesday, and recorded Madonna tunes greeted concertgoers as they lined up to enter the concert grounds. On Israel’s Army Radio, a DJ interrupted a song briefly to quip that “tonight, Aunt Esther is playing at Hayarkon Park.”
pilgrimages in 2004 and 2007 along with other Kabbalah devotees.
Her previous two stops on the current tour, in Romania and Bulgaria, were marred by controversy.
In Bulgaria, Orthodox Church officials accused the singer of showing disrespect for Christianity. In Romania, she was booed during her concert for criticizing widespread discrimination against eastern Europe’s Roma.