On Saturday, Bruno Mars was set to become the third American artist ever to perform two sold out concerts at the 70,000-capacity HaYarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel — following Madonna in 2009 and Michael Jackson in 1993.
He played his first show there last Wednesday with two Tel Aviv acts opening, running nearly four hours in total. Both shows were promoted by Bluestone Group, which is owned by Live Nation Israel.
“I say Tel Aviv!” Mars shouted to the audience. “The Hooligans made it to Israel – thank you so guys so much for coming out,” Mars told fans after opening his show with his hit 2016 song “24k Magic.”
Mars’ Saturday show was supposed to be the second-to-last date on a brief world tour that previously stopped in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Oct. 1 and was headed to Doha, Qatar, for an Oct. 8 show to follow the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix.
Early Saturday, though, reports began to circulate of a coordinated Hamas-led terrorist attack that would escalate the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict. Later that day, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on television and declared that his country was now “at war” with Hamas. By afternoon, Live Nation Israel issued a statement that the concert was canceled. (The following day, Mars also cancelled his planned Doha concert.)
“All ticket purchases to the show will receive an automatic refund to the credit card through which the purchase was made,” said a statement that Bluestone Group shared online.
Securing the venue, located inside Tel Aviv’s one-and-a-half-square mile Yarkon Park, along the banks of the Yarkon River, during active fighting would present unnecessary risks to concertgoers, a source tells Billboard, noting that the decision to cancel was made a few hours after the attacks began that morning. By 2 p.m., Bruno Mars and his 60-person crew were at Ben Gurion Airport, where they boarded a flight to Athens.
From Athens, Mars was supposed to travel to Doha for his performance, but he was reportedly unable to pack up and transport his production gear out of Israel in time for that performance. On Sunday, hours before he was scheduled to take the stage in Doha, Lusail International Circuit racetrack announced on Instagram that Mars would not perform, and that French producer and artist DJ Snake would take his place.
Mars’ concert cancellation represents a symbolic setback for Israel’s touring business. For more than a decade, artists announcing plans to perform in the country faced harsh public criticism from activists and artists like Roger Waters and Brian Eno, who urged musicians to boycott the country over what they describe as its unjust treatment of the Palestinians.
In 2018, Lana Del Rey was booked to headline the Meteor Music Festival when Waters urged her to reconsider. (Her trip fell apart due to scheduling issues.) Waters, a proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian-led campaign to isolate Israel, has also targeted Radiohead, Bon Jovi and Jennifer Lopez, albeit unsuccessfully.
New generation promoters like Tel Aviv-based Bluestone Group — which Live Nation bought in 2017 as a joint venture of several investors, including Maverick’s Guy Oseary — has worked to increase the potential gross artists can make playing Israel, while also helping them to navigate anti-Israel backlash. In 2023, the country hosted a number of top tier Western acts including Imagine Dragons, Tiesto, Ozuna, Christina Aguilera, the Black Keys and Guns N’ Roses.
Powered by Billboard.