A R Rahman takes his shows to a different level. You could tell that the attempt here was to create a cirque de soleil show with Rahman’s music in the background. If you have seen the Beatles Love show you will know what I mean. Gone are the days of S P sir, kavita madam, uditji. No Chitra. No Sukhwinder. Heck no Sivamani either (this was hardest for me to digest). All the notable people above have been replaced by good looking female singers, rappers, funky guitarists and drummers. And lots of dancers from around the world. Rahman now is part of the act – no more standing in the center with a couple of keyboards, he moved around the stage with the other dancers, wore dark glasses, and used a hand keyboard at times.
I think the show worked really hard to show Indian culture thru Rahman’s modern music. Rahman tries to be what Ravi Shankar was in the 60s and 70s. This explains why the song selection featured such Rahman gems (sarcasm) as ring ring ringa, some reggae song I have never heard before, a song in English, Bombay theme, theme music from slumdog, and hope your breath – bade ghulam Ali Khan’s thumri yaad piya ki aaye. The only problem is that the audience was predominantly Indian.
The show started out with a song I have never heard before, followed by one of the best performances of the night – rang de basanti. The pace then gradually slowed down to a grinding halt in what was Indian classical section. IMHO the classical.section was verging on being a parody. Then the pace recovered through a religious section. Rahman sang khwaja mere khwaja – his best performance of the night. Dil se was next and finally the show ended with a high note with songs like humma humma and Jai Ho.
Musicians consisted of two drummers, one keyboardist, flute player, Couple of guitarists, dhol player, tabla player, a firang violinist and a MAC hidden somewhere 🙂 none of these guys got a chance to show their act solo except the flute player and violinist. They were not introduced either.
I was hoping Rahman would play the piano taking a cue from what he did in Karan johar show. He did play the piano – once he started a classical like tune that followed with some good comping. Second time he played a couple of chords and then uncomfortably got up with his Mic and started walking and singing. I am not sure whether it is because he doesn’t have great piano chops or if he thinks most people would like to see Shammi Kapur style piano performance. I was pretty impressed by his harmonium skills though.
Sound engineering was terrible. They missed some sounds during solo dhol. Rahman’s alaap in Dil Se got chopped off. Once again his Bande Maataram alaap got chopped off. Some harmonium sounds got muted. The lead guitar mixing was awful. For a pricey show like this, these goof ups are unacceptable.
I loved the stage work. There was a transparent screen right in front of the stage for some 3-D type effect. They showed a kid biking to the sky (ET style) and A R Rahman running through his history (39 steps style) using this screen. This screen also showed some really emotional images of Gandhi and other freedom fighters while Hariharan sang “Bharat Humko Jaan se Pyaara Hai”. There also was a screen in the back of the stage. The images shown on this screen had terrific vibrant colors and some great photography. Overall, I loved the art work here.
Overall Rahman put together a decent show. Was it paisa wasool? probably not. I wish the song selection was better and there were better singers. But I can tell how much of hard work and thinking must have gone into the show. Now eagerly waiting for the SEL show in July 🙂