Lionel Richie (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie. defying BDS bullies, performed to a packed house and adoring fans in his first Israeli concert that received glowing reviews.

By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler

Lionel Richie, 70, did a lot more than just say “Hello” to a packed house of adoring Israeli fans Monday night. He stood up to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) pressure, spread love, and rocked the rafters.

“This was a most amazing concert, and I’ve been to lots of big names,” Sandy Leigh told United with Israel (UWI). “Lionel was right there at the top of the many other performances I’ve seen. I love his music, and he even played some songs I didn’t know. He is definitely a superstar. That’s why I went. I feel this was a once in a lifetime experience to go to something like this in Israel.”

Leigh said she may have yet another opportunity to see the famous crooner. “For 40 years my friends have been telling me to come here,” Richie told his Israeli audience. “Forty years later and I’m here. I promise you. This is my first trip. It will not be my last,” Richie said to thunderous applause.

Richie also said he was looking to rent a place in Israel, Leigh told UWI.

The show took place at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena. The lighting, staging, effects and atmosphere received rave reviews.

The music celebrity changed the original time of the show to 7 p.m. instead of 8:30, as Israel faced its third election on Monday and there were concerns that people would stay home to see the 10 p.m. exit polls.

In a video promoting his concert, Richie said, “Hello Israel. This is Lionel Richie and I can’t wait to perform in Israel for the first time ever. We’re going to dance all night long. So go to vote and I’ll see you on the second of March in Tel Aviv. See you then.”

Richie faced strong condemnation from BDS activists for performing in Israel. However, according to longtime fan Miri Gantshar, he is a man of love who would never submit to the hate-filled group.

“Richie’s personality is very charming,” Gantshar told UWI. “He’s still spreading love through his songs and warm personality. He spoke about love.”

She said the performer appeared “genuinely floored” by the warm reaction and engaging audience, including many standing ovations, sing-alongs, and dancing. “I wonder if the excitement, love and appreciation that performers get when in Israel is more intense than they receive in other places because we are so aware of what performers face from BDS to come here.”

Noting Richie’s age, Gantshar said, “I feel he’s at a point in his life that it doesn’t matter any more what people think. He plays for the audience and connects to people in a way not often seen at other concerts.”

Richie performed many of his greatest hits from the 1980s and his days with the Commodores. These included “Hello,” “Endless Love,” “All Night Long,” “Sail On,” “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” “Brick House,” and “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

“I was surprised that so many of the crowd were Hebrew-speaking Israelis as opposed to English speakers and most were older,” Harold Bergstein told UWI. “However, Richie really got the crowd going, especially when he performed ‘Dancing on the Ceiling.’ The audience was standing, singing along, dancing and clapping.

“I loved the concert. Aside from the music, it was particularly touching how he spoke about his visit to Israel.”

In video below, Richie tells the audience that he’ll be back. (Courtesy Harold Bergstein)