Singing up a storm

Asaf Avidan & The Mojos perform their latest rock album ‘Through the Gale’ with the Ra’anana Symphonette.

Asaf Avidan 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Asaf Avidan 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are two glaring red flags indicating that a rock & roller has started to take himself too seriously – releasing a concept album and performing live with a symphony orchestra. Asaf Avidan & The Mojos are guilty in the first degree of both infractions but may just have the good sense – not to mention the immense talent – to rein in the temptation of puffed-up excess which has ultimately deflated the music and the egos of countless predecessors.
Through the Gale, the band’s third full-length English-language album, was performed in its entirety to a sold-out show two nights ago (Wednesday) at the Tel Aviv Opera House, accompanied by the 40-piece Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra. A second show has been added, however, on January 23.
On paper, the title of the band’s new album sounds like a wreck at sea. Told through the eyes of an old-time sailors on a ship, the songs use their bumpy journey as a metaphor for “the voyage that everybody goes through, from life to death, their acceptance of it and trying to understand what the true meaning is,” Avidan told The Jerusalem Post’s Margaret Stoner earlier this month.
Sitting down with the lyric booklet and studiously following along may indeed provide insight into life as we know it, but listening to the album the way most of us do – in the car, on our iPods while we’re exercising or in the living room as background to some other task – a different insight becomes evident. Through the Gale is the best album Avidan & The Mojos have made.
Whether you embrace or ignore the concept conceit, Avidan and band have evolved into a chilling cohesive whole, with Avidan’s peculiar high-pitched drawl wrapping itself around inventive arrangements and inspired playing by The Mojos. Swinging with a confident swagger, the band can sound as dense as metal on the shimmering title song or as delicate as sea-faring minstrels on “Oh Western Wind,” with cellist Hadas Kleinman providing a haunting counterpoint to Avidan’s acoustic guitar.
When they get into a groove, like at the furious end of “Poseidon’s Fury Unleashed” or during the long-lost Zeppelin outtake-sounding “The Sirens and the Sea, Avidan and bassist Ran Nir, drummer Yoni Sheleg, guitarist Roi Peled and Kleinman scale musical heights that no Israeli band has achieved or even attempted before.
Adding a 40-piece orchestra to the mix for the album’s official debut tonight and next week at the Opera House might be perceived as a pretentious, sweeping statement. But on the other hand, Avidan has used such great judgment until now, that maybe the meeting of musical worlds will spur his music into a new dimension.
“I know how it sounds with four more musicians, but hearing this process of rehearsing with classical musicians who have played four hours a day for I don’t know how many years... it seems way beyond,” Avidan told the Post.
With the band in breakout mode in Europe, and to a lesser extent in the US, due to their previous two albums The Reckoning and Poor Boy/Lucky Man, incendiary live shows and a four-album deal with Sony Columbia, it appears that Asaf Avidan & The Mojos are well on their charted course to that same place – the desired destination of way beyond.
Asaf Avidan and The Mojos, with the Ra’anana Symphonette, January 23 at 9 p.m. The Opera, 19 Sderot Shaul Hamelech, Tel Aviv. NIS 135-175. (03) 692-7777