About two thirds of the way into his nearly two hour set, Shlomi Shabat started receding into the background, in danger of becoming a mere guest at the party he was supposed to be hosting. He's an impassioned singer who wouldn't be confused with a flamboyant performer. He sings with his heart on his sleeve but without any excess hollering or stage acrobatics. So with a nine piece backing band cranking out a powerful hybrid of Spanish/Turkish party music, he was in danger of being outshone by the noise and hoopla going on around him. On the other hand, you can't exactly ignore that none of the three thousand people in the hall that night would have been dancing in the aisles and in their seats without Shlomi Shabat as the figurehead at the helm of the songs.
His beautifully structured set was neatly divided into "quiet" and "loud" halves. The first half(the crooner part) featured one hit ballad after another, interspersed with a few lighthearted stories . Having gotten the emotional stuff (including all of my favourite songs by him) out of the way, the dance party went full speed ahead in the second half. The audience could finally let loose and this seemed to be what most of them were waiting for -- they'll tolerate the radio-friendly sheen of "Ani Shar" to get to the full-on danceable songs. You can't fault the strategy though, beginning with the mellower hits to get people settled into their seats, then raising the tempo and building toward the big finish.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a two hour concert that flew by so quickly. And my cynicism about Shlomi Shabat as an arena-sized performer were dispelled by the end of the night. When the concert was over, I no longer doubted that he could pull off the Park HaYarkon concert that he's planning for the upcoming summer.