Ninet Tayeb .
(photo credit: RAFI DELOYA)
Like it or not, reality TV is the lifeblood of the entertainment industry. In 2003, the first winner of Kochav Nolad (“A Star is Born”) was 19-year-old Ninet Tayeb. From her shy initial audition in IDF uniform, she went on to capture half of the public vote in the final with her epic performance of “Yam Shel Dmaot” (“Sea of Tears”) by tragic Mizrachi great Zohar Argov.
Tayeb’s latest incarnation continues her indie-angst transformation, far from the reality-winner image and associated tabloid gossip and public backlash.
Widely-acclaimed collaborations with prog-rock icon Steven Wilson, who called her the “Kate Bush he’d been looking for,” have done her credibility no harm.
Tonight is the first of five shows in Israel, a warm-up for her spring US tour.
Easing imperceptibly into “Shalva,” the excitement and fragility of the first-night performance are apparent. But Tayeb warms up quickly, delivering songs from across her catalogue.
Without her usual band, this is a one-woman gig.
That is, until Yotam Weiss appears next to the cajón and other percussion instruments at the side of the stage. His beats add texture to the rest of the show, and the crowd starts to groove in their seats.
Between songs, Tayeb pontificates on the Jerusalem crowd (“heard you were special”), living in Los Angeles (“didn’t run away”), and whiskey (“finished my glass”). We hear how she’s following her path after years of doing what the media and audience (er, hello?) “expected of her.” Bizarrely, she relates the story of her first album making money but not satisfying her creatively.
Awkwardly, it’s the same banter heard at her Tel Aviv gig last year. Letting the music talk might have been better. Later, she blames the whiskey.
Tayeb begins the encore by reading notes passed to her, and finishes with “Hakol Yachol Likrot” (“Anything Can Happen”), an upbeat song from her first album, ironic given writer Aviv Geffen’s love of all things dark and Tayeb’s desire to distance herself from her past.
The crowd, by now in the palm of her hand, sings along to her delicate strumming. The harmony is reminiscent of “Angels,” the Robbie Williams anthem, and the feel-good factor is no less.
Unlike her adequate guitar playing, trying to drive rhythm on a delicate folk-size acoustic, Tayeb’s vocal abilities are stunning, up there with the best.
Her ability to seduce in a whisper then wail like a banshee, evokes greats such as Joplin, Jett, Haza and many more. Yet, her most compelling moments are when she forgets herself and loses control.
Indeed, one suspects that if Tayeb unleashed her inner creativity, hearts and minds would be left floundering in her wake.
Possibly because of the influence of other songwriters and producers, she is compelling in the moment, yet her diverse influences don’t leave a lasting impression.
Will the real Ninet please stand up?