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June 19th, 2010

Jai Ho

June 12, 2010-AR Rahman-Jai Ho Concert-The Journey Home

Yours truly scoured the net like a possessed maniac trying to scupper a good deal for the ARR concert after having lost the battle to net a 45$ ticket to eager Gujjus and even more enthu Tams. So a week prior to the concert, I trooped into the Indian store for my usual fill of frozen foods, given that my culinary skills aren’t going to give me a chance to meet either Nigella Lawson or her better half Charles Saatchi!!!The entrance to the store is a notice board of sorts with offers of tuitions for Calculus to Mehndi/Henna classes!!and tucked away amidst all this was a notice for the sale of 4 ARR tickets for 200 $..turns out that there was only one ticket left and in a true sense of Gujju ingenuity, I had to pay a markup of 15$ for the tickets (Sigh!!)

Spent the entire week salivating over the prospects of listening to the thumping bass line of the title track from Dil Se..the sweet sounds of the shehnai punctuating ‘Ye Jo Desh hai tera’ from Swades..the original disco tamizh song “Fanaa”..the carnivalsque ‘Oh La la la’..the oomph of Chandralekha..the breezy intensity of Pachai Nirame..
So D day arrives..and I reached Atlantic City(after a bout of amnesia, where I forgot the concert tickets and had to take a bus/train/bus and land up at the venue!!)..Atlantic City is a mini Vegas with Caesar’s/Bally’s/Trump Taj Mahal etc promising untold riches and a wickedly good time to one and sundry..the concert demographics were fairly reflective of the overall Indian population in the US..Gujju bhais/behens, Tambrams and Gultis..and given that sidvee had informed me that the opener at the Long Island, NYC concert the previous night was “Oruvan Oruvan Mudraali” from Muthu, the prospect of an attakasam show was on the cards..

The concert opener was a maha disappointment..my major grouse with the concert as a whole was the over dependence on songs from Slum Dog Millionaire and also the fact that no song was retained in its original form and was tweaked to a great extent to suit Western sensibilities, which I find hard to fathom given that the Firang population was negligible..so the opener was “Oh Saaya” and ARR arose from the middle of the stage and it turns out has transformed into quite a performer..from the time he was the perennially long haired and monosyllabic artiste to someone who seems quite at ease on stage..

This was followed by one of the worshtest songs from Sivaji rendered by Vijay Prakash who is a really good singer..the concert alternated between fast paced and reflective songs..so this set was followed by the title track from Swades, which surprisingly was retained in its original format and had ARR in top form..and the song did bring back memories of home in a nice sort of way, without getting too nostalgic about mustard fields or other “mango pickle” imagery as Nilanajana Roy would term it..the first tamil song which my ears perked upto occurred when I heard the familiar Urdu word “Marhaba” and the opening bass line of “Take it easy, Urvashi” kicked in..but, the song got buggered with an overlay of Taxi Taxi from Sakaratti, which for some strange reason is a song which lots of people like..even on repeat listen I don’t seem particularly enthused by it, inspite of Benny Dayal being on vocals..so Urvashi got the boot and was overshadowed by Taxi Taxi..so my initial enthusiasm fizzled away..

Given that the Concert was titled ‘The Journey Back Home’, the overall theme of the show veered towards spirituality and patriotism..so Hariharan comes in and performs Tamizha Tamizha from Roja with absolute brilliance and is joined by Vijay Prakash, Neetu Mohan (of Viva fame and ARR’s latest find), Alphons Joseph of Aaromale fame from VTV and Benny Dayal..pretty rousing I must admit

And then..there it was, the crowning glory of the concert for me personally..the rip roaring title track from Dil Se..but again, swalpa disappointing because he didn’t begin with the soaring vocals as the song originally begins..but took it from the chorus..on an overall basis, ARR didn’t reach out to high tones in any of the songs..but, it felt good and brought back fond memories of watching it with Sumanth in a an empty Swagath theatre..Dil Se happened to be the only Mani Rathnam movie which would be remembered more for its songs than the actual film, which formed the concluding part of his terrorism related trilogy-Roja and Bombay being the other two..
The concluding part of the concert had a very interesting bit...where ARR performed a few songs on his Yamaha piano..it’s surprising that many of today’s music directors don’t know how to play a music instrument with any degree of virtuosity and mostly depend on a console to make music (Monkeys on typewriters too can belt out Shakespeare plays)..so there was a VTV piano interlude which was splendid and then “Hello Mr Edhurkatchi” from Iruvar which has a nice jazz opening with furious piano riffs,quite a track when it released in 1996, given that the movie as a whole is about MGR and Karunanidhi’s famous rivalry..also, Bombay’s riveting theme song was also performed with Navin on flute and a cello and violin lending support..I remember listening to that song being used in a Danone commercial when they used to sponsor the French football team (that’s my only contribution to this football WC)..the track still retains its majesty and listening to it is a humbling experience..

The end was a sort of Best of ARR-circa 2000 medley, with all the singers singing a few lines of songs post 2000..so there was Kandukondain Kandukondain, Zubeidaa, Guru and a few other numbers ..and ARR then took centre stage and was dressed in pristine white with his harmonium in tow and sung “Khwaja” from Delhi 6 with utmost devotion and a strange aura seemed to have formed around him and it was magical..the sets and the music coalesced into something magical..and Vande Mataram was the last track..again, no high pitched notes, and was not the belligerent and sock-you-in –the-solar plexus-kind of sound which I remember the song was when it released in 1997 (incidentally, Junoon released their ground breaking album “Sayonee”, the same year)

So..thats all folks..hope the ARR concert gives me an impetus to blog more often

Ps: Harris Jayaraj concert on July 5 close to my digs..:)

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