I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not part of the target audience for Static and Ben-El Tavori.
With that in mind, I was very excited to get tickets to the duo’s recent appearance at Queens College in New York. Their music has taken Israel by storm over the past two years, and it’s hard not to take notice. For those who’ve been living under a rock recently, the unlikely collaboration between rapper Static (aka Liraz Russo) and Mizrachi-style crooner Ben-El Tavori (son of legendary Israeli singer Shimi Tavori) has proven to be an unbelievable success, with red-hot mega-hits like “Silsulim”, “Zahav” and “Tudu Bom” remaining at the top of the Israeli music charts for months at a time.
I’ve been enjoying the boys’ contributions to the soundtrack of Israel over the years. The songs are catchy, memorable, upbeat and fun. They’ve never released an album, however, opting instead to release individual songs directly to Israeli radio, iTunes, and YouTube (where they quickly rack up millions of views).
And if there were ever any doubt, yes, their popularity has definitely spread overseas.
My daughter and I arrived at the theater just before 7pm, the show’s official start-time. In typical Israeli fashion, the concert didn’t begin until about 7:45. The opening act? None other than the “Golden Boy” himself, Nadav Guedj. Singing along with, it appeared, the original recordings of his own songs, Guedj hopped around the stage while warming up the audience with about five selections. The encore: “Golden Boy”, of course, the song with which Guedj earned a respectable 9th place finish for Israel in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest.
When the stars finally emerged on stage, it was a scene reminiscent of the day the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The collective shriek that filled the room remained prominently in place for the next 45 minutes or so. Accompanied by several male dancers, the duo pranced around the stage while singing their hits, with the audience singing along with every word.
The good. Look, I think these guys put out a fun product. I am a big fan of many of the tunes they’ve released over the past couple of years. Accompanied by only a DJ (no musicians), they sang each and every one of their songs, with the same spirit and energy as the originals. In addition to the hits, Ben-El offered a clever Hebrew cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, and the on-stage dancers treated us to a high-energy, acrobatic dance routine as the boys took a break backstage.
(Video Credit: Josh Shron)
If you came to see and hear Static and Ben-El sing their hits, you did not leave disappointed. With the audience singing, dancing, and screaming throughout, I don’t think anyone in attendance could say they did not have a good time.
The not-so-good. These guys only know about EIGHT songs! Their opening, “Kvish HaChof”, was ALSO their encore…because, well, they simply ran out of material! This was a SHORT show (it ended by 9pm), and I was really hoping to hear more. The duo recently signed a five million dollar deal with Capitol Records to produce several English-language albums, so what better venue than New York City to try out some of their new English material?
So when Ben-El brought us his Justin Bieber “tribute”, I thought to myself, “ah, ok. Now we’ll see them open up a bit and bring us something new.” Nope. No such luck. Moments later, Static returned for yet another tried and true selection. And just a few songs later, it was all over.
To this traditionalist, the lack of live accompaniment detracted from the experience as well. One audience member went so far as to wonder whether they were actually singing live – or simply lip-syncing to the pre-recorded music, which generally sounded identical to the originals.
I’ve enjoyed these guys as much as anyone, but found myself just a little disappointed by their live performance. Am I just a little bitter that they wouldn’t grant me an interview for my radio show while they were in town? Perhaps. But I feel that Static and Ben-El missed an opportunity to show off a side of themselves we’ve never seen before.
Then again, they’re millionaires and I’m not…so they must be doing something right…