Friday, June 10, 2011

Yoni Rechter in concert

Today's story starts in late September 1973 (or maybe early October); barely 17, I had come with a group from Habonim to spend a year in Israel, in what had yet to be called a gap year. One day I heard an effervescent guitar riff emanating from someone's room; upon enquiring, I was told that it was "Slippery Boogie", or more accurately "Sipurei Poogy" (Poogy tales). This was the first record by a group of young Israelis, most of whom had been in the same Army entertainment troupe that I had seen the previous year.

In the first song on their record, their keyboardist took a ferocious and ambitious solo which took me completely by surprise, so good was it. The Fender Rhodes also had a solo in the second song, but after that, the keyboardist took more of a supporting role. When I managed to understand the record's sleeve, I discovered that the name of the keyboardist was Yoni Rechter.

A few years later, I knew very well who Yoni Rechter was. I emigrated to Israel in late September 1978, and within a fortnight of my arrival, I took the bus to Tel Aviv in order to see Rechter play with Yehudit Ravitz in what seemed to be a magical evening (their show was later preserved on record). I thought that I was in heaven, but unfortunately didn't manage to see Rechter again for several years.

I tried counting how many times I have seen him in performance: Poogy in 1974, 1978, possibly 1979 ("The sixteenth lamb"), 1982 (a post Lebanese-war show), three times in 1996, possibly in 1997 or 1998, and of course, two nights ago (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this!).

He released a not particularly successful record in late 1995 and 'toured' to support it in 1996, which is why I managed to see him so often. The first performance which I saw was an outside show near the caves of Bet Guvrin, a twenty minute drive. As the 'dressing room' was also outside, I 'went backstage'. First, all aquiver, I spoke with the late Eli Mohar, who wrote many lyrics for Yoni's songs. I remember telling him what great a pleasure it was to come to the performance and how pleased I was that Yoni was appearing again. Eli said to me "why don't you tell him yourself", and so I was led to meet one of Israel's top musicians. About a month or so later, the same show came to my kibbutz, so I had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with the entourage (they autographed discs, and somewhere there's a picture of Yoni - a giant - along with my eight year old (at the time) daughter, who barely came up to his midriff.

In 1990, Yoni Rechter gave a very successful performance at the Israel Festival, which was both shown on television (I recorded it to video then later transferred it to dvd) and recorded for disc, although as it happens, the television show is a different performance to the audio only show.

2011, and Rechter again is invited to appear at the same Jerusalem theatre where he appeared 21 years ago, again as part of the Israel Festival. This time, he was awarded a plaque as a 'favourite son of the festival'. Only about ten such plaques have been awarded, placing Rechter in the forefront of the Israeli entertainment world (as if we didn't know).

Whilst it is always a pleasure to see and hear Yoni Rechter in concert, I feel somewhat mean in writing that the choice of songs this time around wasn't particularly to my liking. A few guest artists appeared, meaning that Rechter's wonderful songs were diluted with other material. One of the encores - typically, the one which got the supportive audience boogying - was a rave up from the Sipurei Poogy record, one which doesn't really have much to do with Rechter. 

But I'm complaining about the 10% which is empty at the top of the cup; 90% was wonderful. I just hope that Rechter will be returning to the stage, instead of staying at home and writing songs for the theatre, for others, and sometimes for himself.

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