Rita was spectacular. She was elegant and warm and spirited. Her powerful, rich voice almost burst through the walls of the Gindi Auditorium at the American Jewish University on Tuesday.
“I’m not used to doing such small shows,” said the Israeli superstar, who performed in front of 100, 000 people during a month-long concert series in Israel this past summer. “I feel like I’m in my living room.” The auditorium’s capacity is 500 and according to Gady Levy, the organizer of the event, 490 tickets were sold. As huge as Rita is and as loyal as her fans are, the show didn’t sell out probably because the tickets were $100-$150. The steep prices made the audience what it was: a slightly older, affluent core of true fans who knew every word to every song she sang. They not only sang along, they danced in the aisles, called out requests, reached out to touch her as she strolled through the auditorium, and stood clapping and roaring for several minutes begging for more even after Rita and her 8-piece ensemble concluded their encore. The adoration was palpable.
This was my first Rita concert. I am familiar with some of her songs and I absolutely love her voice, but to be honest I almost felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I sang along to only one song - I barely knew the rest. And I didn’t even know she was Persian. Sitting next to Shoshana Cohen (she works at the Jewish Journal and got us the tickets) who teared up when Rita sang “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” and in back of a man who threw his arms into the air in sheer excitement throughout the night, I felt too tame, too calm to be amongst such loyal and emotionally attached Ritaites.
I did join the crowd at the foot of the stage and I marveled at her beauty and radiant energy. She sang in Hebrew, English, Persian and Italian. She danced all over the stage. She told stories and even read a note someone from the audience handed her. At the VIP reception after the show, she hugged fans, posed for countless photos, spoke to people and seemed genuine about it all. I was impressed by her un-divaness. She wore jeans the first half of the show, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and a touch of makeup. During the second half, the strap of the tight black evening gown she changed into snapped and she kept singing and dancing as if nothing happened.
Rita, calling “Mushi, mush-mush,” beckoned her 15-year-old daughter Meshi onto the stage to sing Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and for that moment turned into an ordinary mother - protective, supportive, proud.
But on stage, Rita is anything but ordinary.
Click below to hear Rita’s divine voice: