Photo by Nimrod Levy
My ears are still ringing from last night’s performance by Berry Sakharov at Le Poisson Rouge, part of the JCC in Manhattan’s Israel Non-Stop Festival and co-sponsored by Dor Chadash. But it was worth it to see the first ever New York performance from a man who has produced some of the most interesting Israeli rock recordings of the last two decades. Sakharov has pioneered a uniquely Israeli marriage of power-chord heavy rock with dance music beats and electronic atmospherics, a concoction that seems to appeal to two distinct yet complementary strains in Israeli pop culture. In the late 1990s, Israel emerged as an important stop on the international dance music circuit. But Israelis also love – LOVE – to head bang, with lots of foot-stomping and karate-chopping to the music, all while participating in a full-throated sing along.
And Sakharov was definitely loud. He also offered a healthy portion of his trademark stage moves: the backwards hopping, scrunching his nose while he sings like a physics professor trying to recall an elusive formula, and whipping his head around during guitar solos like he’s trying to dry his shaggy hair after a dunk in the Kineret.
Sakharov’s live shows are rougher and louder than his recordings, which on later albums cushioned the guitar grit and cigarette-addled voice with an intricate electronic wrapping, and the karate-chopping sing along was in full force though most of the audience looked like they would be reporting to Wall Street jobs this morning. Still, maybe someone can help explain Israelis’ unusual concert etiquette. You know what I’m talking about: the in-unison jumping and foot stomping and compulsive singing along, like it’s some sort of postmodern Zionist campfire.
It all reached quite a frenzy during the second encore, when Sakharov busted out a classic of the Hebrew head-bang genre, Ein Ketz Layaldut (“No end to childhood”).
In the afternoon
Everything is colored red
And there’s no end to childhood
That passed suddenly
(YouTube video of the song here.)
In a nation where 18 year-olds are drafted to fight the countries wars, perhaps it’s understandable that Hebrew rock brings out something of the juvenile in listeners. Come to think of it, maybe all rock does — at least according to my mother.