A New York Night With Idan Raichel
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A New York Night With Idan Raichel

Over the sound of clinking wine glasses and hushed conversation in Hebrew, Idan Raichel performed a solo show at City Winery in Tribeca this past Friday night.

This concert was an opportunity for the Israeli superstar to “play the songs as they were written at home, on my piano in my living room,” Raichel said to the audience in between songs.

But “I don’t have a grand piano in my living room. I also don’t have so many people in my living room,” he quipped.

Though it was billed as a solo piano concert, Raichel controlled a machine with his feet that added electronic percussion. A gifted singer and pianist, his songs, mostly ballads, some with lines and themes lifted from the Song of Songs, are most powerful when simply accompanied by a piano; the machine did not enhance the performance.

The concert was markedly less of a “performance” than past Idan Raichel Collective shows. Unlike past concerts there were no additional singers save for two guests who joined Raichel for a couple of songs each, Ada Pasternak, an American violinist and singer, and Senegalese guitarist and singer Pape Armand Boye.

Raichel played his hits “Im Telech (If You Go), “Boi,” (Come), and “Mimaamakim” (From the Depths) and used the intimate setting to play a new song called “Maagalim,” or Circles, which was about lifecycles.

He wore his typical outfit of black shirt, cargo pants, and blazer with a black turban atop his head; his signature dreadlocks have been recently shorn to please “his lady.”

A small group of about 30 formed outside the venue to protest Raichel’s performance, part of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, holding signs and heckling attendees. Though they were restrained by metal barricades they were a noisy bunch; it was possible to hear their chants and horn blowing towards the beginning of the concert and one could see them through the venue’s back window. They were mostly gone by the time Raichel finished performing.

Raichel remarked that his concerts around the world are often met with protests, and said, “I definitely think that the voices of artists all over the world should be heard.”

He dedicated the song “Mechaka” or Waiting, a song about calm and inner change, to his protestors as well as to his audience, which was comprised mostly of Israelis.

In tribute to late Yemenite-Israeli singer (and sometimes collaborator) Shoshana Damari, Raichel ended the concert (during his second encore) with a song she sang called “Hayu Haleilot,” (There Were Nights), because this was, he said, a night to remember.

Caroline Lagnado writes about culture.

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