Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
One constant about Israeli star Idan Raichel is that he never ever stands still musically. That is a given and was so once again on this night.
Raichel, who combines Middle Eastern, South American and pop sounds in various musical mash-ups, has toured in various configurations from nine years doing solo piano shows to recording and touring with African musician Vieux Farka Toure to his current 15-piece band.
Raichel doesn't outdo Dylan when it comes to reworking his songs, making them unrecognizable, but plays with different tempos and instrumentation from time to time. He did just that with one of his best-known songs, "Bo-e" ("Come to Me"). Instead of its typically slow pace with wanting vocals wringing the emotion out of the song, the song sounded modern – that is, until a Middle Eastern string instrument took over along with one of the female singers.
When it came to Raichel's band, there was always a lot to like about the players. They played well, and Raichel gives them breathing space to show their wares. Flute and horns punctuated the music, adding different tones to the evening.
As usual, the singers were a key component of the show. Raichel, who in reality is an average singer, a bit thin vocally, also extended a lot of rope to his fellow singers, both male and female. Despite his vocal limitations, Raichel himself infused his songs with a healthy amount of emotion.
But he smartly ceded most of the singing to his band mates, and they ran with it. While they sing very well and with a lot of vocal strength and depth to their delivery, previous Collectives featured even stronger female singers, who were simply lyrical.
As the concert went along, Raichel's sound grew more western and dance-oriented making for a party of dancers in the crowd (and perhaps a bit less interesting musically, but a colorful feast for the eyes aided by a colorful backing screen of various, changing images). After the first go round, security shooed the large Israeli contingent back to their seats. Later in a light-hearted way, Raichel told the crowd that security should be aware that this was different because of the large number of Israelis in the crowd. They were back in the aisles, joyfully dancing to the music.
When Raichel is in the house, neither the crowd nor the music and musicians will stand still. The party is on.