Live Last Night: Idan Raichel Project

Striking a range of musical, cultural and implicitly political notes, the Idan Raichel Project combines music from Israel, Ethiopia and other countries in that vicinity. Last night at Lisner Auditorium, the 10-piece group also sometimes ventured into rap, Afro-pop and Celtic jigs. Under it all, though, was a cinematic trip-hop style that recalled Portishead.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

With waist-length dreadlocks spilling from under his black turban, Raichel is a striking figure, and some in the enraptured crowd clearly considered him a sex symbol. But the project's namesake wasn't its frontman. Raichel sang only a few tunes, mostly playing keyboards and leading the band from one side of the stage. Fulfilling his musical vision were three singers; a rock-trio line-up of guitar, bass and drums; and another three musicians who added folkloric embellishments on, respectively, percussion, wind instruments and a variety of lutes.

If the current group relies less on electronics than did earlier incarnations, many of songs still suggested a Middle Eastern Portishead: Slo-mo beats and movie-score motifs evoked tracking shots of camel trains and shifting sands.

Two hours of that would have been like "Lawrence of Arabia" without the battle sequences, but fortunately Raichel interjected a few upbeat numbers. There aren't many of those on the two albums the ensemble has released in the U.S., yet the group mustered enough of them to propel the audience into the aisles several times. And since the livelier songs tended to feature such vocal hooks as "na-na-na'' or "whoa-oh-oh,'' no Hebrew or Amharic was required to get the groove.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 26, 2009; 3:36 PM ET Live Last Night
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Actually, during the slower numbers, I was happy just to watch the musicians and revel in their technique. Rony Iwryn's percussion solo with the pottery bowls and the water was one of the loveliest things I've ever heard. Eyal Sela's tone on flute was just amazing. Not everything has to be danceable!

The audience all really loved the group, too. The Project gave a them a good long encore set as a reward for their enthusiasm.

Posted by: chomiji | March 27, 2009 7:43 AM

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