When The Rolling Stones took the stage at the Glastonbury festival earlier this
summer, they played a two-hour rock and roll set that belied the four-man band’s
average age of 69, recapturing the vigor and energy of the band’s early years
some half a century ago.
They rocked the festival. There were no
concessions to age. A pumped-up Mick Jagger sang and swirled around the stage
non-stop, his body as thin as it was back in the 1960s, and while Keith
Richards’ hair might have turned gray over the years, his guitar playing was
edgy and powerful and his stage clothes as “Pirates of the Caribbean” as ever.
Although they were playing their back catalogue, this was no sentimental
occasion – the Stones were out there to blow the other bands away. Which, by all
accounts, they did.
Here in Israel last week, Kaveret took their final
bow, 40 years after first entering the Israeli consciousness. In two sold out
performances at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, the legendary Israeli group also
played their greatest hits, but there the comparison ends.
First of all,
Kaveret showed their age.
Lead singer Gidi Gov joked about the amount of
metal inside his body while the infirm Yitzhak Klepter, Israel’s greatest rock
guitarist, had to play the entire concert sitting down. The other members of the
band, all dressed in black shirts to help hide the kilos that have piled on over
the years, had the look of bank clerks readying themselves for retirement, with
only guitarist Danny Sanderson retaining his impish quality of old.
the real difference between Kaveret and The Rolling Stones lies in their music
and effect on society. Whereas the Stones’ rhythm-and-blues infused rock is
sexual and primal, even when performed by 70- year-olds, Kaveret’s is melodic,
with lyrics centering on the local grocery store.
Kaveret also never
challenged the establishment in the way the Stones did; in terms of their
personal image, Gov and Sanderson were always regarded by Israeli mothers as the
sons-in-law they wished they had, something that could never be said about
Jagger and Richards.
And Kaveret performances are not just about the
music; their concerts are interspersed with humorous skits that have the effect
of turning a rock concert into a scout show. Indeed, the Tel Aviv show I
attended had the atmosphere of a Tzofim (Israeli Scouts) summer camp, although
one which straddled the generations.
Grandparents were there with their
children and their children’s children, ready to sing along to every song and
recite every word of Gov’s monologues.
As the clearly frail Klepter sang
his one solo, the whole crowd joined in, wanting to energize him with their
AND IT was this feeling of togetherness that made the concert so
Kaveret, with their Sipurei Poogy (“Poogy’s Tales” – the name of
their first album) are part of the wider Israeli consciousness, handed down from
the 1970s generation to their children and grandchildren.
Stones, Kaveret never sang about “Sympathy for the Devil,” they wrote funny
lyrics, even when including references to the electric chair (check out the
first two verses of “Yo Ya,” the seminal Israeli rock song, with which Kaveret
finished their first encore).
Looking around the crowd at Hayarkon Park,
one saw a certain snapshot of Israel. While the audience certainly wasn’t
representative of modern-day Israel – there were no haredim or Arabs – it was
perhaps reminiscent of Israel of the 1970s, when Israeli society was (the Black
Panther Mizrahi protest movement excepted) more unified than today. Knitted
kippot couples sat side-by-side with their secular counterparts, all swaying and
clapping in time with the music.
This was the Israel of old, out for one
final celebration before Gov, Sanderson, Klepter et al depart the stage for
And so the performance was not just a show, but a communion between
the band and the audience, all connecting to the unique Israeli togetherness
that Kaveret represented and which, Shlomo Artzi aside, no longer exists in
And as the 50,000 people simultaneously left the concert,
there was no pushing or shoving – a most un-Israeli-like trait – just a stream
of people happily humming to themselves.
In the end, Kaveret’s greatness
lies not in their music – they could never match the Stones as a rock-and-roll
band, at any age – but in the fact they could bring whole sections of Israeli
As Israeli culture becomes more and more fragmented in
a multi-channel, multi-ethnic world, their disappearance from the stage will
become even more strongly felt.The writer is a former editor-in-chief of
The Jerusalem Post.
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