Admin note: We thought this would be good for a holiday weekend. If you’re home, go grab this DVD, watch it and then enjoy this review!
I know, I know – this review has been a long time coming. I do apologize about that, but family issues came up. Baruch Hashem, they culminated with the healthy birth of our son Moshe Levi Yitzchak – born on 7 Adar. So now that little MLY is a handful of weeks old, and we are comfortably relaxing at his grandparents’ house, I finally have had the occasion to finish off this review. I hope that we’ll get lots of conversation from those of you who have already bought the DVD or CD.
Now let’s go song by song:
Intro Medley: The intro video is adorable! And Avremel’s interruption of Avraham Yagel with a little joke on members in the audience is cute, as well. I really like the synth-tinted introduction. Fried revels in this oldie. The video footage, however, flicks from frame to frame a little too quickly in the beginning, making this exciting beginning a bit difficult to follow. Next, Hinei Ma Tov: He’s not doing as much running around on stage as he might otherwise – it’s possible he wants to save energy for later. Chazak: Looks like the percussionist (who’s awesome, BTW) is really enjoying this number. Avremel keeps it simple, surprisingly – I expected more energy from this high octane song; especially in the first song of the concert. Turns out he in fact saved the best for last.
Refoeini: After the welcome to the settlers, we head into another oldie-but-goodie. This one’s started off by Daniel Zamir on alto sax. Danny gets a lot of air time on this DVD as a whole, which is a wonderful thing. (If you don’t know anything about Zamir, you can read our review of his jazz album Amen here.) Fine performance by all involved, but almost randomly chosen as the second song of the first set.
This next medley starts off with Yivarachecha, harking back to Fried’s Melaveh Malka album – from way-back-when. And speaking of way-back-when, the next song in the medley is Baruch Hu and Yehay Raava (Forever One) and Ve’eienienu Sir’ena from The Time is Now. Talk about diggin’ ‘em up! All in all, a fun way of reliving some of the songs of yesteryear.
Apparently the “yesteryear” theme follows through the whole night. The next medley starts off with Fried’s Acheinu, also from Forever One. Great graphics of Avremel dancing with soldiers on the background, and some great emotive expression as well. Me Yidmeh Loch, next up, is also a forgotten beautiful number (from We are Ready) exquisitely performed – especially with the talented back-up choir. One of my favorite oldies gets attention next: K’ayol Taarog, from Time Is Now. Yisimcha, that popular Kumzits tune, is given a false ending – which moves on to the unbelievable Kadesh. (I want more of that!) We’ll talk about that later. Kadesh is interrupted by another false ending of Yisimcha – this time, to great effect, with audience assistance. In my opinion, he should have stopped there. It’s drawn out quite a bit, but all in all, it’s a gorgeous medley with gorgeous interpretations.
Swing Medley: Introduced and given extra spice with a performance by professional beat-boxers, this awesome medley is easily one of the top pieces in the concert. And it wouldn’t be what it is without the unbelievable talent of Danny Zamir. It starts off with Hisyatzvu, followed by Ani Maamin from Aderaba. Fried loves his swing, and he’s obviously getting into the act. Odom Doeg gets an awesome intro solo from Zamir, and he bookends it with another one at the end. Man, I wish he starred in the original! Bein Kach is next – ending a solid, positively original medley. Would that all the medleys had this kind of creativity!
Aleh Katan: A truly great song, but here’s my issue: Fried didn’t add much to his original with this performance. Unlike, for example, Nisht Gedaaget on Ohel 5768, where he took an oldie and threw himself into it, here he just sings it through. Disappointing, given his talent. I love the leaves on the graphics behind him, though. Pretty.
Ribono Shel Olam: Fried is joined in video-conference with a giant projection of Dudu Fisher. (My wife thought it was sorta spooky.) You expect him to appear on stage at any point, but he never actually does. It’s another great oldie, but there seems to be a half effort. Why wasn’t Dudu there in actuality? His cute call at the end, “Avreimel!” instead of “Riboinoi shel Oilam!” to call Avremel into it is fun.
Chabad Medley: This power-packed medley starts off with the slow but intense Avinu Malkeinu. Avremel sings these tunes with obvious connection to the niggunim. And as we move into the fast part of the medley, with Niggun Simcha, we get a bit of sensory overload – while graphics from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his chassidim play in the background, a group of well-choreographed dancers fly in. It’s hard to focus on one thing over another – but they’re all good. The classic Ufaratzta is next, followed by Didan Natzach, and then (in English?!) We Want Moshiach Now. Vaharikoisi Lachem Bracha, which Fried sang on Around the Year 3, is the final tune for this lively medley.
Rak Tefilla: Apparently, this was Fried’s first performance of this awesome song; and it’s a great performance at that. But at this point in the concert you kind of wonder why he’s sticking to the middle of the stage? My guess is that with all the medleys and very specific movement within each piece, along with the words in Ivrit, he’s staying near the teleprompter.
The second half of the DVD starts with the Tish Medley. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the connection of one song to the next. I also don’t get why Stupal seats himself in front of a keyboard up front – I don’t understand what it’s supposed to bring out. Each of the songs are well-performed in and of themselves, starting with Mona’s Lama, which the audience joins in nicely, but they don’t really fit together. After Lama is Kol Yisroel, followed by a niggun that Fried obviously loves with great passion – Ain Od Milvado. That song is rudely interrupted by Lemaan Achai, from Shtar Hatnaim. Again, I see no connection musically or thematically; and the step down rhythmically is strange. Thence follows a lovely interpretation of the chorus of Baishanim – which once again leaves you wishing for the whole song – and then ALL the way back to his very first hit, Keil Hahodaos. As a medley? Meh – I don’t get it. Too disjointed.
Next, however, is one of the real highlights of this concert – Unesaneh Tokef. Is it possible to say about a music piece that it’s “picture-perfect”, or will we have the metaphor police onto us? Whatever the case, this is as perfect as can possibly be for a live performance. That’s really all there is to say about it. The post-production with the graphics is also brilliant (even thought the words on the screen don’t necessarily mesh with the words being said).
The follow-up is a Fried bongo solo, with audience interaction. He’s actually getting pretty good at it. At this point, his jacket finally comes off – it seems like with Unsenah Tokef out of the way, he can finally relax. And truthfully, from this point through the rest of the concert, he seems a lot more spontaneous and less sticking to the script. So now we’re onto one of his all-timers – Didah Bey. Gotta love the salsa bridge in the middle! And another unbelievable performance by the orchestra!
Lo Ovo, from Bain Kach, is the next smooth number. Zamir gets his second (of three) shout-outs from Avremel. My guess is that we’ll see him on Fried’s next album; and we’ll probably see him appearing on other albums as well. In the ending, I love how they superimposed Avremel over the graphic of the Beis Hamikdash – especially in the context of him being a Kohen.
The intro of the next song, Tamid Iti, is the well-known story of the footsteps in the sand. You know it. And for that reason, it didn’t bear repeating. But that’s okay. As for the song itself, it’s a brand new one for Avremel – I thought it was going to be Ani Choshev Aleichem. It’s only a decent song, but Avremel throws himself into it heart and soul. Two false endings are the only weakness. But the crowd obviously loved it.
Fried’s classic Tanya is up next. Now the crowd’s there! Lots of clapping along and movement. In terms of Fried’s performance of the song, nothing outstanding.
The Wedding Medley is, in my opinion, an anti-climax. At this point I think everyone wanted just fast music – and this one starts off with the slow beginning of Shtar Hatnoim. Maybe that’s why that girl fell asleep. But when things finally going, they get going – with Invei Hagefen. That elderly oldie (but goodie) is followed by Kaitzad Merakdin – another song from Aderaba. And that’s followed immediately by Vehoyu Limshisa (from Shtar Hatnoim again), while Avremel walks into the crowd trying not to wake the sleeping kids. Afterwards, Avremel climbs back on stage, ironically enough, escaping a bunch of kids who want to dance with him while singing “V’eini yochol lingoa boch” (“Just as I cannot touch you”) from K’sheim She’ani (another song that should have been sung all the way through).
For his next number, Fried sings Matzliach Mashiach with gusto, vigorously encouraging the crowd to get into it. We have a reappearance of the dancers, while Fried jumps into the chorale to give them a bit of space, but joins them on stage later.
Finally, the finale: Yerushalayim is mixed beautifully with an arrangement that moves back and forth into (the fantastic performance of) Baruch Haba, and from there into what starts out as the arrangement for Modeh Ani – but instead flips over to Levinyomin. This “pitzutz” of a finale then segues into Chazak. Didn’t we sing that already? That’s okay, because by the time you’re trying to remember whether or not he did, Fried finishes off with flipping his mike in the air and yells, “Chazak!”
The Fried DVD is a work of art. The lighting, videography, graphics and orchestra are phenomenal. Even the bonus – the celebration of Fried’s life of music, and the adorable opening video, pull you in. And I must compliment Yuval Stupal on the arrangements – fantastic! What musicianship from the orchestra, especially the percussion! The selection of songs has a very wide range – to the extent that even Fried himself remarks twice during the concert something to the effect of, “Oh zeh yashan! – Man, is this old!” That by itself isn’t bad – it’s possible the producers of the concert wanted to resurrect some of these songs, rather than just go for the hits, which have been done again and again, and bear no repetition. At the same time, it seems that the crowd wasn’t always that into it – at times, the front row seemed really tepid. And one of the most humorous moments of the video is Fried walking down the aisle, and stopping at a sleeping girl, and motioning the crowd to be quiet. Personally, though, I actually loved the oldies. My only problem with it was that occasionally, because of the number of medleys, they oftentimes just sang the chorus. While saving time in a long concert, allowing more songs to be sung, it hurts to skip around – it drives this musical junky crazy! The worst example of this is in the song Kadesh – one of my favorite Fried numbers, and a song I never thought I’d see outside of Goodbye Golus. Fried hits that incredible emotional crescendo “Vehoishiainu!” and you’re dying to hear the whole song! But alas… on to the next one … and it leaves you wanting more.
Another semi-critique is that I think Fried does best with a bit of “competition” – ala Ohel 5768, HASC 21 or even HASC 1. There are some divine moments here – Unesaneh Tokef, perhaps, on top – but in the spirit of “kinas sofrim”, I think that having alongside him other top-tier performers bring out the very best in Fried.
My final critique is that it’s obvious that Fried saved his peak for Unesaneh Tokef, which was towards the end of the concert. The problem with that is that the majority of the concert, he wasn’t at full tilt. He only really lets loose after Unesaneh Tokef, which provides for some of the best moments. As a result, there isn’t much spontaneity; not much in terms of wild times.
All the said, this concert was masterfully produced. It was a virtually perfect choreography between singer, orchestra, choir, lighting and graphics, along with the occasional fun surprise. So, if you haven’t yet gotten your copy, what are you waiting for?