Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1
There are not many acts, one imagines, which can bring Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor to his feet, swaying, clapping and dancing with the crowd. But the Idan Raichel Project managed just that on Monday night at the South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, when the ambassador joined a capacity audience for a feelgood show of Israeli world music, brought to London by the Jewish Community Centre for London and programmed by YaD Arts.
The first half of the programme belonged to Noa, a fireball of Yemenite energy whose 15-year collaboration with the guitarist Gil Dor has provided a fusion of Middle East rhythms with jazz and Brazilian samba. Barefoot and with long, swinging braided hair, Noa’s set, in English, Hebrew and Arabic, dipped into her extensive back catalogue but was least successful with songs from her new album, Genes and Jeans.
This, she says, is an exploration of her Yemenite past and her upbringing in New York’s Bronx, before she returned to Israel to join the army and launch her musical career.
But Noa in English sounds flat and dull, with no sense of the excitement she brings to singing in Hebrew and Arabic. By far the most enjoyable part of her set were her two duets with the Palestinian Mira Awad, first in a song written by Awad and then in a sexy and revelatory version of the Beatles’ We Can Work It Out, which suddenly assumed new resonance against the background of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Idan Raichel, making his second appearance in London in as many years, lit up the stage. Raichel and his eclectic group of musicians produce a glorious hotch-potch of songs and chants. Wagrass Vesa, the charismatic singer from Addis Ababa, and the glamorous Cabra Casay from Sudan, wowed the crowd, together with Iranian-born Lital Gabai. The ambassador liked it all.