A. R. Rahman: Live in Concert

I've hit a dry blogging spell, but knew late Saturday night that that would change very soon. It had to, following one of the most complete concerts I have ever attended! I hope you enjoy these pictures. (Click to enlarge.) All songs are available on YouTube for your listening pleasure.

You know well what I've always thought of Rahman's music. And I don't have much that's new to add there after the performance at The Forum (here's the exterior). The venue is the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, and the acoustics aren't near what they're like at, say, the beautiful Hollywood Bowl where he performed in 2006.

Yet, simply put, it was awesome (in the true sense of the word) to see and listen to some of the very best in Bollywood, indeed Indian, music -- especially my favorites from Rangeela (1995), Dil Se (1998), Lagaan (2001), Swades (2004), and Rang De Basanti (2006) -- come to life and often sung and played by the very people who created the magic to begin with. The spectacular choreography almost always led to one visual spectacle after another. Who wants to guess which song Rahman sang along with this legend (talk about presence, how neat was this?)?

It was also quite ridiculous, in a good way, to see a rendition of Pappu Can't Dance (Benny Dayal was in the house! Although he didn't sing Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini (2008)) be combined with Michael Jackson's timeless Black or White. (See the MJ-alike dude in there, to the left?)

A beautiful medley of spiritual songs, from Ek Onkar (Rang De Basanti) to O Paalanhaare (Lagaan) and Khwaja Mere Khwaja (Jodhaa Akbar (2008)) -- below -- culminated with Rahman-induced chants of "Ganpati Bapa ... Morya"!

A tribute to victims of 9/11, with Rahman on the piano. (See, it's the stuff like Rahman's shadow in this setup...similar to the cover art for his non-film album Connections!)

And my favorite segment of the evening, a 12-minute long classical 'episode' (in Rahman's words, music is nothing but a series of continuous episodes), which saw Rahman, playing the harmonium in the center, alongside Hariharan!

Of course we got a decent dose of Hariharan!

The show was sprinkled with with several popular songs in which Rahman provided/directed only the music, or was gone from the stage altogether. The rest were all rather good, too.

He even came into the sound control center (looking uber-cool in signature shades), and mixed to Irumbile Oru Idhaiyam from the upcoming film Enthiran (its Hindi equivalent is the film Robot -- the equivalent Hindi song from its soundtrack is Naina Mile).

No points for guessing which chart-buster they're singing here. :)

Told you the choreography was splendid and very versatile!

Here they are toward the very end.

The bit that struck me most about it all was how consistently cool he was as he played, sang, danced, and directed. Cool, as in exhibiting sheer class and effortlessly going about his business with a genuine smile, and not looking as if he were trying too hard at all. That's the mark of someone who knows he's good enough to where he doesn't need to outdo anyone but himself. (And that's not to say I thought he was complacent in his performance -- he had some very good and thoughtful things to say, too, of course.)

Not sure which song won the loudest applause of the night. Probably a tie between Haaye Rama, Lukka Chuppi, Chaiyya Chaiyya, Jai Ho, and Vande Mataram. (Yes, that many!)

I don't think I can say any more than that this was among the very best music concerts I've ever been to, across continents, industries, genres, and languages.

The biggest takeaway for me is one I need your help with -- there were many songs in languages other than Hindi and English that sounded brilliant, but those I hadn't listened to before. Clearly, I need to start exploring his works for the South Indian film industry. But I have no idea where to begin, and could your help! So...could you please direct me to some starting points?

Thank you.


And jai ho Rahman -- you're truly a God-send.

PS: To my dear visitors: If you've commented at some point over the past five weeks, you probably haven't seen a response from me, for which I'm truly sorry. I'll be getting to them this week. Thanks for your patience.


triShie said...

you're baaackk!! :p been waiting for a review of the concert! so many of my favourite songs performed! :)

thanks for sharing a bite of your most splendid experience!!

dunkdaft said...

Yeh Lo. Let me do the Shri Ganesh with advise.

Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya. The album that got me hooked to south Indian music. Great great songs for great movie. Must check that out.

Also I 'm exploring May Madham and En Swasa Katrae. And lastly, the very famous Kandukondain Kandukondain.

[i am toying with idea to write abt favorite tamil songs, but phew.. no time]

I am jealous jealous :) such a fantastic experience you had. Thanks for sharing pics. That Lata ji ka picture, it makes me wonder how awesome that moment was. Must be singing Lukka Chhuppi, right??

Great observation there about connections - yes, perfect match.

Tell me abt audience, how many non-Indian fans were there? were they enjoying 'pure Indian' songs?

Rum said...

Yaay I'm soo glad you loved the show, I went to the same show but in Birmingham while I was in England, it was soo amazing because my aunt managed to spot some friends who gave us VIP tickets right up close!

It was truly a wonderful evening and it was hilarious to see AR attempting to engage with all the dancers by stopping when they danced and giving them a hi-5!

Maybe the one low point was the free-for-all Chaiya Chaiya were singers were off key! But your concert seemed like much more fun with him doing the inane Robot songs!

theBollywoodFan said...

triShie: Trying to be back, and you're very welcome. Thanks for your comment! Definitely an unforgettable experience, it was all one would expect it to be and a whole lot more!

Darshit! Thanks so much, I'll be checking those out soon, shall report back. You're spot on about Lukka Chhuppi, that was it! And the best part came toward the end of the song, when he went into a door shaped as if it were the door to heaven. Just beautifully choreographed overall.

The audience appeared to be at least 75% Indian. My sister tells me the Hollywood Bowl concert had a *lot* more non-Indians. A few of my non-Indian friends with us liked it, but it wouldn't be fair to expect them to enjoy the songs too much. They had several songs from the Slumdog soundtrack, as expected, and of course they enjoyed those. But were a bit clueless on the rest. In that sense, one would think the choreography and the music made up in some ways.


theBollywoodFan said...

Rum: Awesome! Rahman dancing like a bobblehead was something! (But he was still so classy! :D) There's no doubt 'Chaiyyan Chaiyyan' could've been much more than it was, but that didn't stop us from enjoying it, I hope. And wait, are you saying songs from Robot such as 'Kilimanjaro Ladki Parbat Ki Yaaron' are inane? I would totally agree! LOL. The lyrics could be SO much better through the entire album, really. Still, quite liking 'Naina Mile' and 'Paagal Anukan'. And I guess the carnival atmosphere (and the woman vocalist, tons of oomph, gotta say ;) was what contributed to the power song.

Thanks for your visit and comment. :)

Anonymous said...

I can't comment, I'm hyperventilating-ji!
All the best!

theBollywoodFan said...

;) !!

Pitu said...

Lovely post, sounds like you had a fantastic time!! I wish I'd been there :D Hariharan's outfit is hysterical, I thought it was a lady :P

2 Rahman OSTs I love:

1) Alai Payuthey (original of Saathiya, and way superior to S)

2) Kandukondain Kandukondain (esp. title song and Konjum Minakale)

Anonymous said...

1.thiruda thiruda
3.pudhiya mugam
5.kadhal desam
6.kadhalar dhinam
7.kannathil muthamittal
9.ah aa
10.ennaku 20 unnaku 18
11.Khizaku cheemaiyle
12.Taj mahal

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Thanks for the appreciation! Ref: Hariharan, I wouldn't disagree. And thanks for the recommendations, the original to Saathiya must be awesome!

Anonymous: Thanks so much, I'll definitely look forward to checking them out, it'll be a musical treat!