Live Music + Gig Reviews

Yoav @ 93 Feet East, London

24 January 2008


Yoav is a solo artist who sings and plays acoustic guitar. Another Damien Rice, right?

Not so fast. Yoav, an Israeli-born, South Africa raised nomad currently living in London, had his single Beautiful Lie produced by Marius de Vries, the man credited with discovering him and whose wizardry has most famously backed Massive Attack and Björk. Just finished with a 50-date tour of north America supporting Tori Amos, Yoav is now signed to a label run by Rollo from Faithless.

In short, Yoav’s beats-driven sound, a mid-way point between the roots of Ben Harper and the trance of Paul van Dyk (really), is far removed from cliched perceptions of a male solo singer/songwriter twanging his axe.

Headlining tonight at his first “proper” London gig (an industry showcase and a slot at the Enterprise last year aside), Yoav takes to the stage to address a sold out venue. Despite the packed house, there’s an immediate hush as he begins to thump various parts of his guitar, kicks pedals, twiddles dials and loops sounds that become his backing tracks.

Club Thing nails his colours to the wall (of a club), a catchy ditty that half way through takes on a sinister edge. With vocals alternating from spoken word to soulful falsetto and echo-laden effects it wouldn’t sound out of place on Justin Timberlake‘s latest record.

With his reliance on live sampling Yoav follows KT Tunstall, whose performance of Black Horse And Cherry Tree with guitar and sampler on Later with Jools Holland propelled her stratospheric, and the compulsive rhythmic turns of Son Of Dave and Ash Grunwald, both live sampling masters. Others have done it, but still the audience can’t quite get over that these intricate beats and delicate fretwork are all coming, live, from one man.

His soothing voice, sometimes fed through a delay pedal, sometimes sung into his guitar’s body to create a new sound, was made for euphoric trance anthems. In appearance he resembles a young Richard Gere, with staggering cheekbones and piercing eyes. He wears a t-shirt over a long-sleeved top, perfecting the archetypal traveller look off to a tee. With the backing of Universal’s Island Records, Yoav is already a lot of things to a lot of people.

He throws in a reined back rendition of The Pixies‘ Where Is My Mind that’s scarcely recognisable, taking it out of its pre-grunge dirge and making it a luxuriant slice of atmospheric bliss. Less talented musicians would have foundered on the rocks of comparison, and not everyone will appreciate his efforts, but he makes the track so much his own that it takes on a whole different life.

He finishes on Beautiful Lie. Melodically it’s a hook-free zone, but it works because of its arrangement, building from a scarcely memorable intro through a crescendo of guitar beats and finger-picking compelling enough to put a superstar DJ to shame. Yoav has announced his arrival, but his journey has only just begun.


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More on Yoav
Q&A: Yoav
Yoav – Charmed & Strange
Yoav @ 93 Feet East, London