Israel Gives McCartney a Chance, So He Rocks

The Beatle unleashes hit after hit at his first-ever concert in Tel Aviv in front of an incredibly enthusiastic 50,000-strong crowd

By Natalie Finn Sep 25, 2008 11:36 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

It was to Sir Paul McCartney, with love, Thursday night in Tel Aviv.

About 50,000 people packed Yarkon Park to welcome the former Beatle, who missed out on playing Israel in 1965 when officials deemed the Fab Four too racy for impressionable young minds.

"Israel missed a chance to learn from the most influential musicians of the decade, and the Beatles missed an opportunity to reach out to one of the most passionate audiences in the world," Ron Prosor, Israel's London ambassador, wrote in letters to McCartney and Ringo Starr inviting them to play on behalf of the still young nation's 60th anniversary.

McCartney tore right into "Hello, Goodbye," a fitting opener for a show 43 years in the making. The now 66-year-old rock legend billed the one-off concert as "Friendship First," a nod at the ongoing violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of giving peace a chance.

"Shalom, Tel Aviv, shana tova, ahlan!" McCartney said, wishing the crowd a happy new year in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year which begins Sept. 29 at sundown.

"Ramadan kareem," he continued, an Arabic greeting honoring the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"I will also speak some English tonight," McCartney joked.

McCartney then unleashed a string of hits from both his Beatles and Wings days, among them "I'll Follow the Sun," "Live and Let Die," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Yesterday," "Jet," "Drive My Car," "All My Loving," "Eleanor Rigby," and, of course, his signature sing-along "Hey Jude."

He also accompanied himself on ukulele while singing the George Harrison-penned "Something."

The concert, which boasted two encores and many, many wild standing ovations, lasted about two and a half hours.

(Who knows what angle this audience member was shooting from, but it's still some pretty cool amateur video. Like you would with peace, give it a chance.)

On Wednesday, McCartney and his girlfriend Nancy Sewell made a trip to the Palestininan city of Bethlehem in the contested West Bank area, as well as to the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Beit Sahur, slightly east of Bethlehem.

He stopped to visit with children in a music-theory class and played harmonica in the school's garden, according to the Jerusalem Post.

"Then, next door, there was a girl about 12 years old having a violin lesson. She started off okay and then you could see she was getting nervous and close to crying," a British diplomat who accompanied them on the fieldtrip told the Post.

"Paul took the violin and made some scratching noises with it, and told her, 'See, I'm much worse than you.' "

Earlier today, the British rocker met with the staff and 10 youth leaders from OneVoice Israel, a grassroots group comprising Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans and Arabs who are in favor of using rational, civic-minded means to reach a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

"My father told me that regular people don't like wars and don't want conflict," McCartney said. "I'm not a politician—I just want to bring a message of peace. In every place I perform I see that people want the same thing."