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?
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.