Practice Makes Poliker

Ahead of his Caesarea concert, a dress rehearsal shows that Yehuda Poliker is ready to give his audience what they want most: a smattering of old, new and Greek

Noya Kohavi
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Noya Kohavi

For a weekday afternoon, Kibbutz Yakum had a lot going on: a group of actors roamed the lawn next to a tent with overflowing clothing racks; tie-wearing high-tech workers from the adjacent industrial zone walked along the paths on their way to lunch; one adult kibbutz member rode his bike to the post office, holding in his mouth a notice informing him of the arrival of a package for him.

On the first floor of the building that houses the cultural hall - where the final rehearsals for Yehuda Poliker's new show were taking place - a seminar for project managers at HOT was being held.

The group could care less. Only the instructor got to enter the hall and watch the rehearsal. The rest made do with reverberations on the other side of the acoustic doors.

Yehuda Poliker, with his band in the background.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

Inside the auditorium, in the cold and dark, was the ultimate escape from the events of the day. Poliker and most of his musicians had escaped to the kibbutz dining hall for lunch. Only Ben Tzur, the sound man, and Louie Lahav, the show's artistic director, were listening to a recording of the rehearsal and discuss solutions to technical problems. Among them, a young director wearing tights and flip-flops was urging those in charge to go out and eat already.

As time began to run out, one of the musicians climbed on the large stage and played a little for himself. Poliker returned to the auditorium and quieted him: "Don't start on me with this jazz. You give them a second and already they do jazz for me here."

This complaint would be repeated during every break, as the musicians took to improvising.

"Look, the truth is revealed. Look! In the moment that you give them, they go for funk or jazz!"

The stage looked like a guitar store. In the front, Poliker, his son, Yoni and Shmulik Shamir (the guitarist for the show and the son of Eddie Shamir, who was once the manager of the group Benzine ) are surrounded by a pile of acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bouzoukis.

The first thing Poliker said, and apparently the most important thing for him, is that everyone thinks he is just a bouzouki player, but to start with he is a guitarist.

"Those who know and understand guitar know how I play," he said. "Most of the time, the image of me is that of a bouzouki player, and I'm glad about that, but I want to reveal the side of me that is a guitar player."

In the second row, beyond the guitarists, the keyboard players stood on the sides: Noam Atlas (who also does woodwinds ) and Leonid Detzelman (who also plays the accordion ). Between them was the bassist, Yonatan Levital.

The beat came supplied by no less than two drummers and a percussionist. As if this array of musicians were not enough, behind them are also LCD screens showing video clips, including some art by Poliker, whose drawing adorns the cover of the new album "Conditional Love."

The dress rehearsal got underway as the two drummers, Alon Hillel and Eli Hadad, and the percussionist Amir Pinto, livened up the stage together. And thus the show began. Poliker raised his arms to the sides like a conductor and instructed the musicians to imagine they are now in the concert. He himself did not really sing, but rather just signaled, to save his voice.

In the first half of the rehearsal, the songs alternated between new pieces and hits, intended to keep the audience at the edge of its seat.

Among other things, his audience would be treated to about half of the new album as well as old hits such as "Me and My Shadow," "When You Grow Up" and "Less But It Hurts."

The second half included what Poliker referred to as "a real Greek celebration."

"It is a very long show, and other songs will also be included," he promised during the short break between rehearsing the two parts of the show. "There are songs that I can't leave out and that's quite a lot. The show will be at least three hours. I am going to do a concert diet, three hours of balance and three hours of performing. I'll lose weight for sure."

He did not always have this privilege, he said.

"When I started out, with Benzine, we did not have enough songs," he recalled. "So we did cabarets, Pink Floyd, Stones, and a little Beatles. Over the years, we collected songs and we built a show. Afterward there was a very large repertoire. And you know how many songs are missing? I would liked to have also included 'Cheap Romance,' 'Stains,' and 'Romeo.'"

The song list indicates Poliker's desire to give his audience the perfect experience, which includes the new, the old and everything in between, in rich arrangements without a dull moment. The first show in Caesarea, which launches the new concert tour, will take place on June 19 and there are only a few tickets remaining. Another concert three days later was added to sate demand.

It has been around a decade since Poliker performed solo at the iconic amphitheater. But from the dress rehearsal it was very clear that his enthusiasm has not diminished. He behaved like a perfectionist, and kept the musician on a short leash. The legendary story that he once fired Rafi Persky in the middle of a rehearsal, while he was playing, seems almost logical when the musicians get mixed up with the background sounds. He uses very harsh language to correct them, verging on the vulgar.

But Poliker also has a habit of making sure to compliment where appropriate. He's excited about this production, especially for the encounter with the audience and specifically, with a new audience.

"I am glad to meet this younger audience," he said. "The mature audience as well, naturally, but mainly the young people who I hope will come. There is a lot of rock and roll in this show. I could have gone to do shows in Caesarea [earlier], but I refused adamantly because I didn't want to grind up that show. I waited and waited until an album came out."



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