Asaf Avidan at Islington Assembly Hall
It’s an enthusiastic and warm audience that greets Asaf Avidan on this equally warm Halloween evening, as the Israeli singer/songwriter continues his solo surge forwards since disbanding his band The Mojos back in 2012. The stage set-up is sparse, Avidan beginning his set with purely acoustic numbers before incorporating sequencers and rhythm tracks that wonderfully bulk out his songs of loss, longing and unrequited love.
The most obvious starting point for any review of Avidan must surely be his mercurial voice. Ranging from soaring falsetto to breathy histrionics to impassioned cry, his is an almost androgynous vocal that sounds like a bizarre fusion of Robert Plant and Bob Dylan, while at times resembling Nina Simone. His almost bel canto flourishes and embellishments spiral into the air with the lightness and abandon of a bird in flight, and all the audience can do is follow in a state of transfixed awe. Indeed, to explode the cliché, at times the Assembly Hall is so enraptured with hushed quiet that it seems a fallen strand of hair might send tremors reverberating through the fabric of the building.
Astonishing vocal prowess aside, Avidan is a musician of immense versatility, switching between guitars, harmonica, layering percussion tracks, to playing one song on an auto-harp (which he playfully introduces as a means of justifying his road crew having to carry it round with them over the past year).
It is this interjection of personality that serves to make Avidan a joy to watch. He is a skilled raconteur, expounding earnest proclamations on the metaphysical power of love, the propensity of every man to tell lies, telling jokes and riffing on anecdotes, that are segued in and around the songs with an effortless zeal that is seen so rarely in solo performers. The impact is most reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s Sin-e recordings, in which the intimacy of the venue is the perfect environment for the transmutation of music and emotional engagement to be engineered between performer and his audience.
By the time he closes his set with One Day/Reckoning Song’(remixed into an international dance hit in 2008), the audience is rapturous with their appreciation, as well they might, for its not often that one witnesses a performer with this level of talent and magisterial command over his art.
For further information about Asaf Avidan and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Different Pulses here: