Navigate to News section

The Chili Peppers’ First Trek to Israel

The band pays tribute to first guitarist who was Israeli

Adam Chandler
September 11, 2012

Last year when the Red Hot Chili Peppers announced they would play their first ever show in Israel, the following went up on The Scroll:

Long-time fans and/or Behind the Music aficionados know the band’s history was significantly shaped by Israeli-born Hillel Slovak, their first guitarist. Slovak’s 1988 death (he OD’d) fractured the band; the core of Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bass), and Chad Smith (drums) has gone through a revolving door of replacement guitarists in their nearly 30 years on the scene.

The band has persevered despite countless battles with drug addiction, reaching worldwide fame: Grammy wins (7), platinum albums (5), and $105(!) tickets for their Israeli debut.

Naturally, now that the band has finally played the show (last night), I thought it only fair to give an update on the event–despite the fact that it no longer seems to be a big deal when American bands go to israel. Though I swear, this story is different! From the Times of Israel:

Eleven years ago, the band canceled a gig because of second intifada-era security concerns. Now they were finally here, and Slovak was plainly a factor. They said they were sending out one song to his home town of Haifa. Bassist extraordinaire Michael “Flea” Balzary hailed him mid-set as the man who “invented Israeli funk”; left unsaid was the fact that the late guitarist’s unique style has always informed the band. Flea also recalled how, when they were playing together in their early years in LA, Slovak made a trip to Israel, and came back “so excited… so full of love.”

Listening to all of that, having Flea wish us all “Lehayim!,” telling us how happy, grateful and “humbled” the band was to be here, hearing him say after the encores that they’d remember this night “for the rest of our lives” — well, it was clear, in retrospect, that the boycott pressure groups were never going to have kept the Chili Peppers away.

Further boosting their cred, Israeli jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen came on stage for a few songs as well.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.