The Red Hot Chili Peppers on Monday announced the cancellation of their concert in Israel. Producer Shuki Weiss received the final decision in his Tel Aviv office, following hours of discussions and negotiations with the group's support team: the media handlers, record company representatives and concert managers.
The famous group was scheduled to depart the U.S. yesterday for an overseas concert tour that was to open in Israel. The decision to cancel entails many logistical changes: changed flight times, canceling shipment of stage gear, canceling press conferences and more. Therefore, Weiss says, the phone calls between the group's production offices in Los Angeles and his office had already started several days ago.
Weiss and his associates understood that the cancellation was impending, but continued to be optimistic, because the group's members expressed much willingness to perform here and were aware of their considerable popularity in Israel. Even former U.S. president Bill Clinton joined several weeks ago in the concert's public relations campaign and attempted to convince the group not to cancel its performance here.
Nevertheless, the recent wave of terrorist attacks and the repeated warnings issued by the U.S. State Department not to visit the region had an effect. On Monday, the group's manager, Peter Mensch, announced the cancellation of the concert. The official version, of course, states "postponed until a later date," but even Weiss disappointedly acknowledges that a group of this scale has a very tight schedule and the chances of it including Israel in an upcoming concert tour are slim.
The Stranglers, which were supposed to be the warm-up act before the Red Hot Chili Peppers have expressed a willingness to appear in Israel, but Weiss says "there's no point in putting on this concert without the main act."
Artists who have visited here have not given Israel a particularly good reputation: Madonna, who performed at Hayarkon Park, switched hotels in the middle of the night, after discovering that a family was staying in the room opposite hers. Elton John fled from photographers and only agreed to return to Israel after diplomatic pleading that was truly embarrassing.
There are few producers operating in Israel, and Weiss is the most reliable of them. In the past, he organized numerous rock performances of varying sizes: from performances at the Dan Cinema in Tel Aviv in the early 1980s, to concerts at the Cinerama and huge shows such as an appearance by R.E.M. and the joint show featuring Westlife and Five.
Weiss said yesterday that to date some 20,000 tickets to the group's concert in the park were sold. "That's a nice figure and I'm sure we would have met the goal we set for ourselves - 45,000 tickets," he says. According to him, ticket-holders can get their money back at the box offices, and all of the suppliers who started preparing for the concert will get a refund.
"It was tough to place Israel on the map of international concerts. It took years. With this cancellation, I feel as if we've reverted back many years," Weiss said.
The international concert market follows a simple logic: just one prestigious and sought-after concert making the rounds of European and American cities is enough to create demand and invigorate the entire market. When the crowd arrives at the box office or sees one good concert, it will gladly go to see others. This year, the job is being done by Madonna's "Drowned World Tour," which is selling $2,000 tickets for its New York show. Another prominent concert is the Mini Festival being organized across the United States by Moby, which includes artists such as Nelly Furtado, New Order, The Roots and DJs Paul Oakenfold, Derek May and Moby himself. Add to that the annual British festivals in Reading and Leeds, which are both featuring performances by the rap star Eminem.
The market for performances from abroad had weakened even before the deterioration in the security situation. Israel has a small and crowded market and every external entity that enters it immediately affects the crowds' consumption habits. In the last year these have included the DJs from abroad who did low-budget performances in nightclubs and created opportunities for huge profits for themselves and the club owners.