Devotees of 1990s rock band HaChaverim Shel Natasha (Friends of Natasha) gathered on Thursday night at the National Library’s outdoor plaza in Jerusalem. Masked and mostly in their seats, middle-aged rockers swayed and sang along, familiar with every single word of the band’s one-hour set.
They were already in a Natasha mood, having first watched a screening of Asher Telalim’s “Friends Without Friends,” part one of the 1990 trilogy about the band that closed the library’s Docu.text festival held this week.
The film is a quirky watch, taking viewers back to 1987 and a far different Israel, when the four original band members — Arkadi Duchin, Micha Shitrit, Shlomo (Kozo) Elmkayes and Miki Harari — first moved to Tel Aviv and into an apartment in an abandoned hotel, taking odd jobs to make a living.
Each band member talks about their complicated past, including Duchin’s move to Israel from the former Soviet Union when he was 15 and Shitrit’s family’s collapse when he was still a child. Those two, the founding band members, met as teenagers in Haifa.
They stayed together through three studio albums until splitting in 1996, when both Shitrit and Duchin pursued successful solo careers, and then reunited again — though not with all the original members — in 2013.
The reunion is still taking happening now in 2021, with a series of performances through September.
It was a smooth, tight performance of the band’s best hits on Thursday night, with Duchin on keyboard, Shitrit and Miki Harari on guitar, Jean Paul Zimbris on drums and Adi Harari also on keyboard.
The spotlight is often, but not always, on Duchin, the rhinestones in his baseball cap glittering in the colored stage lights. The band has aged too, with mostly heads of gray hair, or, as in Shitrit’s case, almost bald.
“It’s kind of funny to perform after the film,” remarked Shitrit. “We look so big on screen.”
“Nostalgia has the whiff of retirement,” answered Duchin, paying short shrift to the images behind him.
Maybe. But there was pure joy in the Jerusalem night air as this beloved nineties group unleashed their litany of songs about loneliness and heartbreak, paired with feel-good pop, rock and soul.