Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pixies Live at Caesarea

Last night I saw the band Pixies play live at Caesarea Roman Theatre.

This was the first time I've watched a show at this venue, an ancient theatre seating about 4,000 people, right by the sea. We sat right at the top and enjoyed the sea breeze after a very hot and humid day.

It was a nostalgic concert for me. I enjoyed the Pixies' music in the late eighties and early nineties, and it both informed my subsequent musical taste and influenced some of the other bands I love.

I was familiar with the older songs, and found that the newer songs were consistent with their signature sound. Their style can best be described as distortion guitar rock with weird lyrics. The songs are quite short, and the concert moved quickly from one song to the next.

The performance was polished and professional, with good acoustics and lighting, but it lacked any personal interaction with the audience. People who come to see bands play live crave the appreciation of the musicians they enjoy, and it seemed strange and perhaps even hostile that the Pixies didn't even say "good evening", let alone acknowledge what country they were in.

It seemed that the audience wanted to enjoy the show regardless of this coldness and despite some of them, like me, not being familiar with the band's entire repertoire. The atmosphere might also have been slightly muted by the venue not selling any beer, which tends to be standard at rock concerts. Also, although smoking was prohibited in the theatre, many people ignored this and smoked, which reduced the enjoyment of non-smokers like me.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Radiohead Live in Tel Aviv

Last night, I was one of the 47,000 people who watched Radiohead live in the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.

Radiohead has been one of my favourite bands from the beginning, and their music is a regular part of my life. I've always admired both their creative genius and their artistic integrity. I'm not a fannish person and tend not to display my taste in art as part of my identity, but my phone's ringtone is Radiohead's "High and Dry".

A music critic might describe their style as layering complex rhythms with both melodious and dissonant tones to create lyrical soundscapes. To me, their music is sophisticated, beautiful, interesting, and a particular flavour of weird that appeals to me. It sends shivers down my spine.

The concert included songs from all the stages of Radiohead's development. They say it was their longest show for a long time, and they played several beloved favourites. Listening to their recorded music is intimate, but hearing the loud, live performance was a much more visceral experience.

From where I was standing, I couldn't see the stage itself, and the screens were not much help. The side screens mixed the close-ups of the band members with the video art shown on the central screen. But I didn't mind too much as I was there to hear the music more than to see the performers. The visual effects were spectacular.

The band's decision to play in Israel has been controversial since it was announced, with BDS proponents trying to persuade them to cancel it. Thom Yorke commented on stage, somewhat obliquely: "A lot has been said about this, but in the end we played some music".

BDS supporters single out Israel for criticism, ignoring other countries that commit much worse atrocities and human rights violations. Israel is far from perfect, but supporting its right to exist does not imply endorsing its current government and all its policies, as many Israeli citizens can attest. In the song "No Surprises", the lines "Bring down the government / They don't speak for us" received the loudest mid-song applause I heard all night.

I enjoyed this experience and wish that everyone who loves music gets a chance to see their favourite artists perform live.