Fun and talent break the mold at Idan Raichel Live Festival

There was something for everyone at this musical, culinary artistic extravaganza.

The Idan Raichel Project performs at the Rishon Lezion Live Park Monday, June 5, 2018. (photo credit: LIOR KETER)
The Idan Raichel Project performs at the Rishon Lezion Live Park Monday, June 5, 2018.
(photo credit: LIOR KETER)
Hometown hero and eclectic musical genius Idan Raichel wowed the Holy Land once more Monday night at Rishon LeZion's Live Park.
The Idan Raichel Project is a smorgasbord of sound, with a stage full of over a dozen top performers in changing constellations, swapping instruments, singing, dancing and really creating a musical experience before the audience's wide eyes. A backup singer would solo a soulful ballad one minute, play piano accompaniment on the next dance number, then join the chorus backing up Raichel himself as the entire ensemble took the stage in a dizzying and dazzling blend of multiple musical styles, languages and moods. 
There really was something for everyone, and the crowd reflected this. There were secular and religious fans, families with small children, groups of jumping pre-teens, couples on early dates and everyone in between, and different parts of the show appealed to all. There were moments with just Raichel on the stage, reminding the crowd to remember the daily sacrifices of Israeli troops who make "beautiful evenings like these" possible, before singing a solo song of hope. There was a reggae-style rap ode to Jerusalem, reminiscent of Matisyahu. There were hits that the whole audience sang along, and newer pieces that surprised and delighted long-time fans. Raucous tribal dance numbers inspired the audience to jump out of their seats and rush the stage, and the brass section came to the front to meet them, flanking a soloist who shred the bouzouki. If you didn't know someone could shred the bouzouki, this is a must-see. 
Many famous artists grow tired of their biggest hits, and while they'll play an obligatory version at live events to placate fans, it's clear that their heart isn't in it. This was absolutely not the case for Raichel, who played almost all of the biggest fan favorites from his repertoire with gusto. Some of his greatest hits were artfully retooled to give them new interest and depth, such as "MiMaamakim," which was performed with new layered harmonies and still as much emotion as the studio version his fans adore.  Much-loved songs like "Im Telech," were delivered faithfully, with only a few notable omissions, specifically the lovely "Mai Nahar."
Raichel was clearly making the most of the event, having fun with the other musicians, running around taking selfies with the phones of fans next to the stage, taking the video camera of one of the crew members and capturing unique perspectives from around the stage for the crowd to see, and taking advantage of breaks between sets of songs to tell stories about his family.
"One time, I was coming home after three months away on tour. And I was hefting my suitcase up the stairs, and with every thud I could hear my daughter squealing and getting excited. And when I got to the door and opened it, ready for a big welcome, my daughter saw me and said, 'Oh, I thought it was Mom coming home.'"
Raichel also told a story about how his wife asked his daughter before the concert if she wanted to take a nap before the big show, and she said, "No, I'm sure I'll sleep very well during Daddy's concert."
When he asked her what song she wanted him to play, she requested a totally unrelated children's song, which he did play, with dramatic flute accompaniment, which dissolved into his hit "Achshav Karov," much to the audience's amusement and delight.
At the end of the show, Raichel laughed and said, "This is the part of the show where everyone leaves the stage, then you clap, and they come back on and play more songs... well, there are a lot of musicians on stage, so we're just going to pretend that happened and play the last songs now."
The would-be encore delivered a thoughtful recreation of his smash hit "Boei," at a lower octave than the studio version, and concluded with his recent single "V'Im T'avoi Elai," which had everyone on their feet dancing.
From soulful start to thundering finish, the entire show was impeccably produced, which is no easy feat with that much talent on stage. Songs flowed seamlessly from one to the next, blending into each other with the help of expert ambient lighting and interestingly varied projected video.
The concert was part of a larger "Live Festival," which means it's worth it to get to the site when doors open to check out the variety of booths and opening acts on a side stage. There was also a series of special food offerings for sale by chef Yuval Ben Neriah (of Taizu) and an exclusive photo exhibit by photographer Ziv Koren, which includes rare intimate glimpses into Raichel's home life as well as an unusual perspective on the humans of Israel.
Raichel said he'd been dreaming of producing the festival for years, and it was really a dream come true for him. From the looks of the glowing, elated crowd at the end of the night, it was a dream come true for his fans, too.
The festival continues with more shows this week and in September. Tickets range from NIS 170 - 324. For more info, call Zappa Club at *9080 or check out