International Convention Center, Jerusalem February 3.

EMIR KUSTURICA leads a line of female fans in a choreographed dance. (photo credit: LAURA KELLY)
EMIR KUSTURICA leads a line of female fans in a choreographed dance.
(photo credit: LAURA KELLY)
‘Imagine seeing Steven Spielberg playing guitar and jumping around on stage – that’s what Emir Kusturica is like for us,” said a Bulgarian concert- goer at Monday’s performance at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.
Cinematic legend Kusturica took to the musical stage with his ever eccentric and talented No Smoking Orchestra, pleasing a rowdy crowd of a few hundred at the otherwise reserved venue. The Serbian Kusturica is most famous for his films, which are usually black comedies set in desolate dreamscapes – post-World War II eastern Europe, isolated Gypsy communities along the Danube river, or a vapid America. He’s twice won the Palm D’Or at Cannes, for his films When Father Was Away on Business and Underground.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Kusturica’s music has been described as a Balkan “garage-punk,” with eastern European folk and klezmer influences.
The performance at the ICC was no less theatric. Fans rushed the stage despite the orderly assigned seating in the concert hall, and women were promptly invited up to dance with the seven-piece orchestra. Standout musical numbers from the show were performances from Kusturica’s film Black Cat, White Cat – of which the band composed the soundtrack – and the tongue-in-cheek “Was Romeo really a jerk” and “1,2,3 F&*% MTV.”
The MVP of the night had to be violinist Dejan Sparavalo, one of the veteran members of the band, which has transformed itself over three-and-a-half decades in the business. Not only is Sparavalo a spectacular musician, but he entertained the crowd with costume changes and musical gags – placing his bow in Kusturica’s shoe or mouth and moving his violin in time and continuing to hit all the right notes. Mixing languages, singing in Serbian, Romani and English, the crowd’s delight was palpable.
Closing the show, Kusturica went to introduce his band, beginning with himself.
He barely finished saying “I am...” before an excited concert-goer grabbed a microphone and finished: “EMIR KUSTURICA, NUMBER ONE!”