The Lab, Jerusalem
February 11When Geva Alon of rock trio The Flying Baby released his first solo album, Days of Hunger, in 2006, he was almost immediately hailed as a Neil Young soundalike. That first release showcased Alon’s aptitude for writing songs about hearts and highways, invariably accompanied by an acoustic guitar.Alon has come a long way since then. He is no longer a lone rider. After three studio albums, innumerable performances and a lengthy stay in the US, he takes the stage with practiced ease and captures the audience with his deep, melodious voice, backed by progressive rock band Tree. Dressed in bellbottoms and sporting long hair, guitarist Ben Golan, bassist Dor Koren and drummer Naveh Koren remain loyal to trends of the ’70s in music as well as looks, transporting the packed crowd at The Lab to an entirely different era. Thursday’s show began with “Help Me Girl,” off of Alon’s most recent album, Get Closer. It picked up very quickly with “Rosemary’s Eyes,” from 2007’s Wall of Sound, a love song which is without a doubt one of his best tracks. Tree’s progressive roots shone through in a rendition which built up slowly, electrically. New songs “Come Race Me” and “Get Closer Now” were equally outstanding, beginning with simple chords and later delving unexpectedly into sheer beauty, the melody “climbing up high” (in the man’s own words) as Alon strummed freely and Tree let loose on their own instruments.From the outset it was clear that the four musicians were in their element no matter what they were playing, a testament to how diverse Alon’s music has become. The band easily swung from classic rock to new wave and back, spinning out covers of Bowie’s “Modern Love” and Talking Heads’s “Psycho Killer” just as moving as the simple, sincere romance of Alon’s own songs.Alon has successfully taken his place as the frontman and lead guitarist of one of the most inventive, passionate rock bands performing in Israel today. They are a versatile bunch – not as wild as Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, but far from tame. They jam with a thirst to take the music as far as it can go, as far as the lyrics can carry it. For Alon, like Young, the guitar seems to be an extension of the body, like a sonorous, limitless heartstring.Listening to his new songs, it is clear that Alon has developed both as a guitarist and a lyricist in the past four years. With each album he strays further and further from the folk-country style that had first defined him, opting instead for more complex musical arrangements and meandering, mesmerizing guitars. And yet, his new releases still retain the charm of those earlier songs. When Alon played “Days of Hunger” as an encore, the devoted fans in the crowd – groupies, couples, students, adults and children alike – easily sang along, their voices rising in unison. Alon stopped singing, but continued to play the chords as though afraid to break the spell, letting the crowd’s soft singing blanket the room.The show ended, at the audience’s behest, with the epic “Relaxation,” one of the highlights of Days of Hunger. It began, like many of Alon’s songs, quietly and introspectively, but culminated many minutes later in a tumult of drums, guitars and wild improvisation, proving overwhelmingly that Alon and Tree are not only stellar talents, but exceptional performers as well.Catch Geva Alon and Tree at venues around the country in February, March and April. They will play next at the Barby in Tel Aviv on February 19, and will open for New Jersey-based indie rock band Yo La Tengo at the same club on March 22.