February 26, 2020

Israel’s guitar man

With a career spanning more than four decades, Israeli rock star Shalom Hanoch has often been compared to the likes of Neil Young and Mick Jagger. He has played a fundamental role in Israel’s music history as a pioneer of the country’s rock movement in the 1970s and has remained a pop culture icon ever since. 

Hanoch, 65, will perform at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on March 6 as part of his U.S. and Canadian Yetzia (Exit) tour with longtime music producer, arranger and keyboardist Moshe Levi, who has also worked with big-name Israeli artists like Rita, Aviv Gefen and Boaz Sharabi.  The tour, based on Hanoch’s 2004 live album of the same name, will swing through cities with large Israeli populations — Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and New York —  and will feature classic hits such as “Waiting for Mashiach,” “Play It” and “The End of the Orange Season.”

Yetzia reflects a softer side of Hanoch. “I have a rock ‘upper’ side and this one, which is quieter, simpler and more intimate,” Hanoch said in a telephone interview from his home in Israel. “Both sides are dear to me.”

Hanoch’s fans range in age from their early teens to over 60 years old. There are those who have followed the singer, lyricist and composer since his early years, and younger fans who caught the Israeli rock bug from their parents. Hanoch is looking forward to entertaining his Israeli fan base all over North America with an intimate act consisting of a guitar, a piano and his legendary raspy voice, with backup vocals by Levi.

“This is an acoustic act in which we play songs closer to the way in which they were written, only piano and guitar, me and Moshe Levi.”

The pared-down tour gives Hanoch and Levi the creative freedom to perform the songs in different ways each night and vary the selection of music from Hanoch’s vast repertoire. The audience becomes an integral part of the concert’s flow: Hanoch encourages fans to shout out requests. Their enthusiastic participation inspires him, he said, as does the sight of several generations singing along to his music together. “It’s beautiful, and touching,” Hanoch remarked.

His music partner, Levi, has played with, produced and arranged for the rocker since 1981. “It’s not coincidental — we are a good match,”  Hanoch said.  “It works.  It works all the time.”

So what does the future hold for the spirited silver-haired rocker? New projects are in the works, and Hanoch enjoys mentoring as well as collaborating with other artists. This summer, he will be revisiting a special concert series in Israel, Four Stations, which groups material from his past albums into “stations” from certain periods of his career, including collaborative works with fellow Israeli music legend Arik Einstein. The series was performed last year and was a big hit. In marked contrast to the Yetzia tour, the production includes a full band and the shows take place in large venues.

“Spontaneous, close and intimate fits better with smaller venues,” Hanoch said, referring to his North American tour, “and I don’t enjoy it any less.  It’s closer to the heart.” 

Yetzia: Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi, March 6, 8 p.m. Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. Tickets are available at the Canyon Club box office, canyonclub.net; Noy Productions, (310) 202-3100; and Eema’s Market, 21932 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 702-9272.