Concert Review: Maya Isacowitz

Zappa Jerusalem, October 31.

ISRAELI SINGER-SONGWRITER Maya Isacowitz. (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Fans of the TV show The Affair would be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled into a Fiona Apple concert on Saturday night in Jerusalem. The opening number for Israeli singer-songwriter Maya Isacowitz’s 15-song set at the capital’s Zappa Club had the breathy, mysterious and a cappella intonations voiced so defiantly in Apple’s theme song to the American hit television drama (which was, entirely coincidentally, co-created by another Israeli, Hagai Levi).
Isacowitz recently began touring Israel to promote her second album, All of the Miles, and the new show reflects that. The Fiona Apple-ish opener is in fact the lead track on All of the Miles.
Isacowitz’s sophomore release has some stand out numbers – “My Child,” in particular, has a bouncy rockabilly beat that is eerily reminiscent of the vibe from the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World; “Watch Me” is pure glorious bouncy pop – but the album lacks some of the punch that made her first, Safe and Sound, so infectious, going gold in Israel and turning the pint-sized singer with the Alanis Morissette-sized voice into Israeli music licensing group ACUM’s 2012 “Discovery of the Year.”
What’s remarkable, then, about Isacowitz’s latest show is that she infuses even the weaker songs on the new album with such spunk as to elevate then into performance highlights. “Minor Changes,” a bluesy number that in the studio has trouble breaking out, became a mid-set standout, rocking hard with Isacowitz picking up the electric guitar for the first time in the evening. She pulled off the same trick with “Soul Changing” near the end of the show, raising the question of whether it’s already time to release a live album, like Matisyahu did to jumpstart his international career.
After the success of Safe and Sound, Isacowitz, who is now 28, moved to New York and all the songs on All of the Miles are from there, as is the album recording itself. Isacowitz will be touring in Israel for the rest of the year. Her time in New York seems to have given her an increased confidence on stage, and her band is especially tight this time around.
Isacowitz’s range was well represented in her live show – she knows how to rock, but she also plays a mean ukulele, as in the tender “Noam,” which has been receiving Israeli radio airplay, or the brand new “Our Story,” which she wrote just weeks ago on her way back to Israel after going through a painful breakup.
Isacowitz doesn’t talk much on stage, but when she does, it’s hard not to fall in love: she speaks from the heart, with an endearing sweetness that makes you want to forgive her mother even as Isacowitz berates her in the angry yet hopeful “My Child.”
Perhaps the highlight of the show was not an Isacowitz original but a cover of the 1965 jazz blues song by Nina Simone, “Be My Husband,” which Isacowitz performed as a duet with just her longtime percussionist partner Keren Teperberg accompanying her.
Isacowitz closed the main part of her set with her first hit from Safe and Sound, the hauntingly beautiful “Is it Alright,” as if to ask the audience if her return met with their approval. The enthusiastic response she received in return left no doubt as to the answer.