Living in New Jersey, it’s amazing that I’ve had the chance to see so many musical performances by Israel’s top artists. Anyone whose made it big on the Israeli musical scene has come to visit New York City over the years, and I feel fortunate to live in an area of the world where the very best of Israeli culture is fairly accessible.
But somehow, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the Idan Raichel Project…despite MANY opportunities to do so. Idan and company are here all the time, but it’s just never worked out for all kinds of wacky reasons. I’d heard incredible things about their shows…an amazing celebration of Israeli culture infused with the energy and passion of other cultures, singers and musicians from around the world.
From what I’ve heard, it’s an fabulous experience, especially since I know ALL of their songs. it’s pained me to have missed so many opportunities.
So I was pretty skeptical when I got tickets to see “Raichel – Piano – Songs.” Idan Raichel’s new SOLO piano show, which came to Jericho, New York on Wednesday night, June 1st. As ringmaster of the “Project,” I had no doubt Idan was a talented musician. But just Idan and his piano? I felt like I was missing out on something magical, replaced by a show that, I feared, would be fairly bland and even a bit boring. To make things worse, I wasn’t thrilled with Idan’s new solo album. Pretty songs, yes…but I found myself questioning Idan’s latest career decision to go it alone for a little while.
After an intimate performance from Idan, I’m happy to say I was wrong. Idan’s talent and personality were on full display for nearly two hours that night, and he certainly endeared himself to the audience. Masterfully in control of a beautiful grand piano, Idan sang the hits, told lots of personal stories, and, as he put it, welcomed us into his “living room” as he performed the songs just as he had written them.
Musically, he played everything you’d want to hear. With a heavy emphasis on the new album (“Ma’agalim”, “HaYad HaChama”, “Lifnei SheYigamer” and others), Raichel also played the hits we know and love – including songs for which he sang lead vocals (Including, of course “Mima’amakim” – recently voted Idan’s #1 song of all time by Ynet readers), as well as songs he wrote for other singers (“Mikol Ha’ahavot”, “Bo’ee”, even Rita’s “Mechakeh”). All crowd-pleasers, to say the least.
However, what made this show stand out was a glimpse into Idan’s musical abilities, as well as his personality. While skillfully playing most of the songs on the grand piano, he utilized many other tools throughout the evening. On many occasions, Idan would create an off-the-cuff percussion beat on an electronic drumpad, then have it continue playing on a loop throughout the song. For “Bo’ee,” he would plunk keys on the piano with one hand while holding down the piano strings with another, resulting in a very unusual (but very cool) rendition of the song. He would even play the xylophone with his right hand while simultaneously playing the piano with his left. Needless to say, the audience was impressed…including my friend sitting next to me who had never before heard an Idan Raichel song.
Who knew Idan Raichel had a sense of humor? I’ve interviewed him several times and had no idea. From start (“I talk a lot when I’m in a good mood”) to finish, he told lots of humorous stories in English about his career, his wife (to whom he referred simply as “The Austrian”), his young daughters and life in Israel in general. We learned that Idan’s attempts at romance tend to be lost on his wife, that he likes to return from trips abroad with musical “toys” as gifts for his daughters, and that his most memorable musical performance was a private bedside concert for a young boy suffering from terminal cancer. His casual, easygoing style engaged the audience a great deal, and we found ourselves hanging on his every word.
If you want to hear the hits exactly as you’re used to hearing them, you’ll be disappointed by this show, currently touring throughout Israel. But if you’re a fan of Idan’s music, and willing to experience these songs in a brand new way, you’ll love “Raichel – Piano – Songs.” Sure, I would have much rather seen “The Idan Raichel Project.” And seeing Idan on his own only intensified my regrets on missing “the Project” in previous visits to the New York area. However, I thoroughly enjoyed Idan Raichel’s one-man-show…and look forward to watching this talented artist continue to evolve in his musical career.