K’s Choice Concert in Israel

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Sam Bettens, Reinout Swinnen, Orit Shahaf & Tom Petrover (L to R) – K’s Choice concert in Tel Aviv/Photo: Alon Levin

K’s Choice delivered a fantastic performance last night at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv. Amazing energies flowed between the stage and the enthusiastic crowd, K’s Choice rocked the stage! There was so much love in the air, with so many special moments and guests Orit Shahaf and Tom Petrover (HaYehudim), one high after another, it was a rock love-fest. The Belgian rock band first performed in Israel – on this very stage – 20 years ago and their fire only burns stronger and brighter. The cheers, shouts, and outpouring of love from the audience throughout the concert sent a clear message: K’s Choice, we love you! So glad to have you back, and please come back again soon!

The band’s songs are primarily composed by the Bettens brothers, Gert and Sam (in chronological order), who founded the band in the mid-90s. Their songs speak to the emotions: ranging from delicate, intimate songs to visceral, hard-driving rock, the lyrics are sometimes enigmatic, yet always describe an emotional/psychological landscape, creating a connection with the listener. Many of these songs give me the feeling that they express the things we would say – to one another, to the world, if we were brave and honest… and could sing. And that is their enduring power. In addition to their talents and great vibes, one cannot but help being impressed by all that typically remains hidden from the eye – their hard work, professionalism and the meticulous construction of the concert (a glimmer of which was on view in the smooth flow of electric and acoustic guitars switched out on almost every song) – everything that goes into a perfect concert experience. Drawing on the band’s rich repertoire, the concert featured songs from K’s Choice earliest days, such as The Ballad of Lea and Paul, which, as Sam said, was originally released when the band was still called The Choice (they changed their name early on because at the time there was another, US, band called ‘The Choice’), to songs like Private Revolution from the Phantom Cowboy released in 2015.

Sam Bettens – K’s Choice concert in Israel/Photo: Alon Levin

The night opened with a really cool DJ set from Michal Serr, with a great mix of tracks – happily including some of my favorites: Tamar Eisenman – Sun, Annie Lennox – Must be Talking to an Angel, and an intriguing version of Tom’s Diner, to mention a few. Then K’s Choice took the stage and the house rocked with excitement as Sam Bettens sang out the first words of We Are the Universe. Sam Bettens has a beautiful voice and a captivating stage presence, radiating such great vibes! Sam and Gert complement one another wonderfully as song writers and performers. Hangar 11 was packed with K’s Choice loyal fans who shouted with excited recognition as each song’s first chords were played. The love from the audience was matched by the love and generosity that flowed from the stage, as Sam, recounting that he has often been asked what is so special about the band’s relationship to Israel, said: “I think it’s you guys.” Soon into the concert the audience was singing along, and it was magical hearing Sam’s voice floating above that chorus of voices. Introducing the next song, Believe, Sam said, “When we first came here 20 years ago, we had zero expectations that anyone would know our songs. We were so surprised. We are still so humble.” Everyone was dancing and jumping, as the song’s lyrics reverberated through the vast hangar: “I believe in me.”

Gert Bettens – K’s Choice concert in Israel/Photo: Alon Levin

Taking the night to a deeper place, Sam and Gert sang Heart (The Great Subconscious Club 1994), with Gert on acoustic guitar. Their harmony was so beautiful, the audience singing with them on the poignant chorus: “Break my face, my back, my arms, my neck/But please don’t break my heart.” It was such a tender, moving interlude, in a magical night of deep feelings and great exhilaration. As Gert opened The Phantom Cowboy on his harmonica, a woman from the audience shouted out “love it.” Later in the concert, as Sam shared with the audience that “it’s been a bit of a crazy year for me,” the words of the blues-rock song echoed back to me, acquiring a new meaning in my mind: “I came a long, long way/Just to be where I am/I followed no one down/And I’m not the same.”

Sam Bettens, Orit Shahaf, Tom Petrover, Gert Bettens – K’s Choice concert in Israel/Photo: Alon Levin

One high followed another, as Orit Shahaf and Tom Petrover (HaYehudim) bounded onstage in the midst of Mr. Freeze taking the volume up for explosive energy and excitement that rose even higher on Everything for Free. As Orit and Tom left the stage, K’s Choice were about to begin their next, and last song, when someone shouted from the audience, “we love you!” and Sam responded so naturally and with warmth “we love you too,” and the band zoomed into Not an Addict.  Talk about ending on a high note!

Sam Bettens – K’s Choice concert in Israel/Photo: Alon Levin

But it did not end there, because no one wanted this night to end, and as Sam came back out for an encore, I felt that the band was having as much fun onstage as we were in the audience. A feeling soon confirmed, as Sam talked about the experience of getting a full body massage and that it is ” almost impossible to enjoy it 100% because I know it’s going to end. That’s kind of how I feel today.” The melancholy loveliness was soon followed by the rest of the band coming out for the dark rock of Virgin State of Mind (featured on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). When Sam sang the line “Like do you think I’m sexy?” – the audience roared. With gracious generosity, K’s Choice launched into an exuberant I Will Carry You, singing, playing, jumping, as the audience joined in the feel-good vibes. No one in the audience wanted this concert to end, but inevitably, it had to end, and K’s Choice ended on the perfect note, with Sam, Gert, and keyboardist Reinout Swinnen singing Killing Dragons a capella: “take my soul.” Beautiful.

K’s Choice concert in Israel was produced by Live Nation Israel/Bluestone Group – Shay Mor Yosef and Guy Besser