Last night I saw The Idan Raichel Project at Town Hall in NYC. The concert was billed as Bridges to Peace celebrating Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel. Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel (SCMCI) is a 250 bed, comprehensive pediatric hospital – the only one of its kind in Israel, the Middle East, and beyond. From initial planning, the intention was to insure that the hospital would distinguish itself not only as an institution of medical and academic excellence, but also as a Bridge to Peace. This dual vision remains a hallmark of SCMCI. The event started out with an introduction by Lynn C. Schneider, Board Chair of SCMCI, and the daughter of Irving and Helen Schneider, who were the founders of the medical center. A short film, directed by Lynn’s son, preceded the performance and revealed the uncompromising dedication SCMCI brings to all their patients and their families.
This event was a benefit for a good cause and there couldn’t have been a better choice of venue than the Town Hall. For those who haven’t been to the Town Hall, find an excuse to go as soon as possible. The acoustics are top notch and there isn’t a bad view in the house. Idan Raichel may not be a household name in America, but he is a triple platinum recording artist and a talented pianist who has been changing the face of popular Israeli music since 2002, offering a message of love and tolerance. His music finds inspiration in the sounds he heard on the streets as a youngster growing up in Tel Aviv. African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern styles weave their way seamlessly into the band’s repertoire. He and his group have performed across the globe for packed auditoriums. Idan is the composer and arranger of the music, but during a show, he is just another musician in the group. “There would be no front man,” Idan said of his concept for the band, “I would sit at the side and watch things and see what occurs. Every song would have a different singer, we would sit in a half circle and each musician would have a chance to demonstrate what they have to offer.”
On the night there were a dozen musicians on the stage in a rotating cast of people from around the world. Each person is from a different background, but together they are a family. While the group works so well together, each member is an individual talent and everyone is given the spotlight during the course of a performance. The people in the crowd were a wide range of men and women of all ages and ethnic groups. Each audience member was given a red, blue or green glow stick which lit up the venue with bright colors. When The Idan Raichel Project came out shrouded in darkness, the crowd went wild with anticipation. From the start, the band had the crowd on the edge of their seats. The sequencing of the show was well paced as a couple of slow numbers were followed by a high energy song or two. It didn’t take long before the audience were out of their seats and dancing. Once the crowd voiced their appreciation, The Idan Raichel Project would crank up the intensity of each song, taking the audience on a wave of emotions. At one moment, the noise of the crowd would be emphatic with everyone dancing and clapping, the next moment there would be a hush of silence felt throughout the hall. This kept the audience actively participated in the performance as they didn’t know what was going to come next.
I’d heard The Idan Raichel Project had amazing live shows and I was not disappointed. The recorded songs are twice as impressive in their live form, filled with passion by the band members. The singers in particular were very good at getting the crowd going, which the audience fed on all night. This give and take relationship propelled the band into an amazing finale which featured one song after another burning down the house. The Idan Raichel Project are playing a couple more shows before Idan Raichel tours with Vieux Farka Touré as The Touré-Raichel Collective will release their Tel Aviv Session album on March 27th. You can stream The Idan Raichel Project and The Touré-Raichel Collective on bandcamp thanks to Cumbancha. Check out The Idan Raichel Project’s video for “Say God” featuring Vieux Farka Touré below.