Have you ever eaten at an Italian restaurant where the pasta was terrific, the Chianti was just astringent enough and the antipasto was fantastic, but the schmaltzy Italian pop music that the restaurant owner insisted on playing nearly ruined the whole experience?
So what do you do when one of your favorite singers, Mike Patton, the former soloist of the beloved band Faith No More, has been struck by the Italian pop bug and puts on an entire show consisting of cover versions of the very songs that almost ruined the gnocchi?
Yes, Patton is one of the most adventurous, unpredictable and diverse artists in the world of pop music, and it isn't so surprising that he'd succumb to the Italian bug. And yes, even in the days of Faith No More he had a soft spot for schmaltz (and the ability to refine it and turn it into a delicacy ). Nonetheless, will his Mondo Cane project turn out to be just a whim, the fruit of the feverish brain of a great but overly curious and experimental artist?
The concert in the Amphipark in Ra'anana was sparsely attended. It seems that lovers of Italian pop stayed home and that many fans of Faith No More voted by absentee ballot. They don't appreciate Patton's obsessions. But the singer's sworn fans, those who love him no matter what phase he's in, from avant-garde to sugary sweet, came to the amphitheater and left with huge satisfied smiles on their faces.
What did one member of the audience shout toward the end of the show? "Bellissimo!" What a great performance.
You must be kidding
Patton, who is on his fourth trip to Israel (he performed with Austrian electronic musician Christian Fennesz in 2007, with the Moonchild trio in 2008, and with Faith No More in 2009 ), led a group of 20 musicians in the Ra'anana concert, including an Italian lounge-rock band and a section of string musicians from the Ra'anana symphony orchestra.
The first songs received a mixed reaction. The band played well, Patton sang well and it all seemed serious and well-prepared, but the songs themselves recalled that Italian restaurant. The crowd was supportive, and each time Patton cleared his throat and hinted that he did not intend to approach Faith No More's wild territory, he was met with enthusiastic applause. But despite the loyalty to Patton demonstrated by the audience, a cloud of suspicion floated overhead nonetheless: Italian pop? You must be kidding.
After four or five songs, Patton switched to English. He sang "Deep Deep Down," his vocal burners switched on. The Italian persona melted into that of a soul singer, the band moved from third to fourth gear, and the cloud of suspicion evaporated for good. From that moment on, the show was nothing but uninterrupted pleasure.
It may be that I got used to the songs. Or it might be that these creative and rich versions, in an approach that combines seriousness and thoroughness with lightness and nonchalance - combined with Patton's fabulous singing, the way he handles the Italian words, his fabulous communication with the musicians and the audience, the presence of the laptop man with earlocks you just wouldn't believe, the obvious joy of the Israeli string players, the beautiful voice and appearance of the backup singers, and the infiltration of several aggressive Faith No More elements into the emotional music - turned the songs into extraordinarily enjoyable masterpieces.
Every time Patton ended a song, expectations were renewed, leaving audience members wondering what this phenomenon would do next. It is harder to give a greater compliment to a performing artist.
The concert reached its peak in the last two songs before the encores. The first of these was a quiet piece, almost abstract, highly sensual, that recalled soundtracks by Ennio Morricone, Patton's idol. The Morriconian song merged into a rhythmic one that was wildly romantic, almost euphoric. Does it make sense that I enjoyed myself even more at this show than at a Faith No More concert?
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