Narendra Kusnur's music musings …


vasant

I wonder if such a term exists, but let’s call it the ‘Concert Memorability Index’. The idea comes from the thought that many of us enjoy live performances and rave about them for a few days. We write about them on the social media or in newspaper articles and blogs. But slowly, the details fade.

Keeping this in mind, I tried an experiment. On March 13, just a month and a day ago, I attended a tribute to the legendary music director Vasant Desai at the Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi. Now, as I had interviewed the director Vikas Desai before the show, I had a rough idea about what it would be like.

However, I decided not to take down any notes or write an extensive review immediately. The objective was simple: Would the show have very fine and detailed memories a month later? If it did, it obviously had a very high Concert Memorability Index. So let me try my luck at writing a month-late review.

THE show was named ‘Vasant Desai – Ek Anubhav’. Not a seat was empty, and some people sat on or stood in the aisles. Though one expected a bit of delay, the concert started 30 minutes late, which is pretty normal for most musical events in Mumbai. Director Vikas Desai, wearing his trademark hat, addressed the gathering.

The first thing the audience realised was that it wouldn’t be just a continuous rendition of Vasant Desai’s songs. The actor Sumeet Raghavan played the sutradhar, or narrator, and Tushar Dalvi enacted the legendary music director’s role. The script was in Marathi, and film clips were shown on the screen at the back. What was instantly obvious was that this would be a fine blend of theatre, music, storytelling and cinema.

The orchestra was totally live. On the right were a group of chorus singers and the string section. The left side had the keyboardists, guitarists, flautists and percussionists. Different singers came in and did different songs. The line-up included Ravindra Sathe, Vaishali Samant, Rattan Mohan Sharma, Tyagraj Khadilkar, Kirti Killedar, Nachiket Desai, Ankita Joshi, Mansi Multani, Vaibhav Upadhyay and, in a special appearance, Sachin Pilgaonkar. A few others whose names I didn’t quite catch.

The songs were mostly in Hindi and Marathi. The names of the film, original playback singers, lyricists and stage singers were mentioned on the screen. Vasant Desai’s association with the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram was showcased through his earlier songs in Marathi films like ‘Shakuntala’ and ‘Amar Bhoopali’. His music in PK Atre’s ‘Shyamchi Aai’ was also rendered.

The idea was to fit in a theme, rather than go by chronological events. Hence, the ‘Guddi’ hits ‘Bole Re Papihara’ and ‘Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti Dena’ were presented before the interval. The latter was even followed by a video of AR Rahman’s rendition.

It was pure showbusiness. There were dancers for the lavani songs, Chinese costumes for songs from ‘Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani’ and a brilliant solo song-and-dance version of the ‘Aashirwad’ hit ‘Rail Gaadi’. Snippets about the composer’s eating habits, fondness for soda, lack of any vices like tobacco and alcohol, and his passion for exercising were shared.

The way Vasant Desai used background music in ‘Do Ankhen Baarah Haath’ was portrayed wonderfully. The scene depicted the passing of the day. Cinematically, it involved the use of how the length of a shadow changes. Musically, it moved from morning to afternoon to evening raags. What director Vikas Desai did was to first show the scene without any music. Then the cast explained the concept, before the scene was played again with sound. Mesmerising.

Though some rare gems were missed, most classics were rendered. The late Ustad Amir Khan’s title song from ‘Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baje’ was sung by classical vocalist Rattan Mohan Sharma. ‘Nain So Nain’ from the same film was sung as a duet. From ‘Goonj Uti Shenhai’, there were ‘Ankhiyan Bhool Gayi Hai Sona’ and the slower version of ‘Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet’. From the Marathi repertoire, there was the immortal Kumar Gandharva-Vani Jairam hit ‘Runanu Bandhachya’.

The ending was total gooseflesh. First, mention was made about how as Maharashtra’s first honorary music director, Vasant Desai tried to ensure that school-children in the state learnt ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in chorus. Then, the cast talked of the Marathi film he planned to direct. On December 22, 1975, after a day-long recording session, he returned home and walked into his lift. Because of some technical problem, he was killed in the mishap. An era was over.

Now, see how Vikas Desai portrayed the sequence. Dalvi, playing the music director, talked about his plans. A picture of a lift emerged on the background screen. Dalvi walked towards it. Sudden darkness and the sound of a crash. Short silence. ‘Times of India’ and ‘Indian Express’ headlines about the mishap were shown. Darkness again.

Candles were lit. A man in white came on stage. He was joined by all the singers. He recited a line from the ‘Do Ankhen Baarah Haath’ masterpiece ‘Ae Maalik Tere Bandhey Hum’. The singers recited the line in chorus. The whole number was rendered that way. The song over, the crowd was reminded of Desai’s effort’s of teaching ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in schools. The entire audience stood up and sang the National Anthem. What a memorable way to end a brilliant concert. No wonder many of us can talk about it weeks later.

Now, didn’t this show have a very high Concert Memorability Index? Even a month later, it is totally fresh in my mind. A five on five rating, for sure. Vikas Desai announced that he was planning to take the show to Thane, though it was still early to decide on other cities. It wasn’t an easy show, simply because of its sheer magnitude and scale. But it was done with sheer precision, and truly brought out the character of the legend named Vasant Desai.


earworm

This was how my day progressed yesterday. It was a Sunday, so I was at home. I woke up at 6.45 a.m., with folk-rock legend Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ spinning in my brain. I don’t know why. I went to the washroom, and the mind switched to Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai’. Not the main lines, but only that classic ‘Alvida’ refrain. I tried to sleep more, but the second antara of the AR Rahman-Udit Narayan hit ‘Ae Ajnabi’ haunted me. Finally, I caught an hour’s sleep after thinking of Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik’. Imagine ‘Night Music’ early in the morning.

I woke up again at 9 a.m. with ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh’s ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Phir Door’ in my head. Never understood why this particular song, which I last heard in December 2015. Suddenly, over newspapers and breakfast, Hindi film music director Amit Trivedi’s ‘Manmarziyan’ and jazz saxophonist Stan Getz’s ‘Manha Da Carnaval’ invaded my thoughts. There were two other songs which I totally forget.

Over lunch, it was the Rolling Stones hit ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Maybe it was because I had a bad experience with somebody last week. At tea-time, it was rock band Jethro Tull’s ‘Cup Of Wonder’. On my evening walk, I crossed a temple, prayed and realised I was humming Hindustani classical maestro Pandit Jasraj’s ‘Ja Ja Re Apni Mandirwa’. No clue what song played in my ears while sleeping, but this morning, I opened my eyes to blues legend’s BB King’s ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. What a tragic line to begin a day.

HOW often have you woken up and found yourself humming Dylan, an old Lata Mangeshkar classic or some new Bollywood hit? Or spent your evening humming anything from Kishore Kumar and Arijit Singh to ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’ or western classical composer Maurice Ravel’s ‘Bolero”? ‘The tune has stayed in your mind for a few hours and vanished, before another ditty replaces it. And the funny thing is you have absolutely no clue how it has entered your mindspace.

The ‘stuck song syndrome’, commonly known as the ‘earworm’, is one of the most common conditions many listeners face. Over informal chats, I have often heard this subject being discussed, but not enough is known about it. Some research has been done, but read only by the researchers, their faculties, students and families, and crazy people like me. Let’s see what they said.

The word earworm comes from the German ohrwurm. In his book ‘This Is Your Brain On Music’, cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin points out that they occur when neural circuits representing a song get stuck in playback mode. “It’s not the entire song, but only a small section,” he says.

Earworms have existed for years. In his 1876 short story ‘A Literary Nightmare’, Mark Twain talked of a jingle getting stuck in his head and disturbing his concentration so much that he passed it on to someone else. The term ‘earworm’ didn’t exist then, and was in fact first used in Desmond Bagley’s 1978 novel ‘Flyaway’.

Neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks, author of the popular book ‘Musicophilia’, says that today, people change earworms with greater frequency than those from the earlier generations. He attributes this to that fact that a wider range of music is accessible today.

A fairly elaborate study is found in music psychologist Victoria Williamson’s ‘You Are The Music’. In a short five-page section of a chapter, she comes up with three interesting facts.

First, earworms are not always annoying. She points out: “I ask people how they try to control or cure their earworms. I have a sizeable number of responses that say – Why would I want to control my earworms? They don’t bother me and sometimes keep me company.”

Secondly, Williamson believes earworms are not necessarily pop songs or jingles. She says people get them even in classical music, jazz and new age music. Of course, most mentally listen to melodic, vocal and simple tunes.
Her third point is that contrary to popular belief, musicians do not get them more often. “People who enjoy music every day, in particular those who like to sing along, report the most habitual and recurring earworms,” she explains. Even among musicians, those with an experience of over 15 years tend to get fewer earworms than the younger artistes.

What triggers earworms? Very often, the person may not even have heard that song in days or weeks.. Williamson talks of this case where Michael Jackson’s ‘PYT’ was stuck in a young lady’s head, even though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. The reason: she had seen the letters ‘PYT’ on someone’s car number plate.

Finally, Williamson says earworms are also linked to mood. My own inference would be that if you are euphoric or ecstatic, it may be RD Burman’s ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ or Boney M’s ‘Daddy Cool’. If sadly nostalgic, it may be Mukesh’s ‘Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din’ or the Beatles hit ‘Yesterday’. The good thing, the music psychologist says, is that they can change with your mental condition. She definitely has a point in the larger sense of her research but my mind works differently. Let me tell you why.

As I mentioned before, I woke up to BB King’s ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. It’s Monday, so had to rush to work. Bluesman T-Bone Walker’s ‘Call It Stormy Monday’ took over. While getting ready, my earworm switched to Mohammed Rafi’s ‘Din Dhal Jaaye’. Heard the radio on the way, and the new Hindi film hit ‘Soch Na Sake’ from ‘Airlift’ did a 30-minute headbang. I switched FM stations, and reached office with popular group Maroon 5’s ‘Sugar’ while meeting the boss. Well, ‘Sugar’ and ‘Boss’ just don’t connect.

At work, a friend suddenly messaged: “Remember the name of that tune that Carnatic singer Mahesh Vinayakram sang at Tata Theatre some 10 years ago?” He tried humming it, and I just couldn’t eat my lunch properly. My current earworm is a particular line from one of my favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs. It goes: “Meri mohabbat mein taaseer hai.. aa aa aa aa.. taaahseer hai.. taaahseeeeeer hai.. Toh kheench ke mere paas aaoge tum.. Jhink chik chik chik jhink…”

Obviously, my own earworms have no link with my moods. They behave differently from whatever has been researched, but then I may be a weirdo. Whatever, I like them. The good thing is that there is no copyright over them, and one doesn’t have to seek anybody’s permission, pay any fees to mentally hum them or even shell out huge sums to have the artiste’s image in your mind’s eye. It’s freedom of thought, and right to musical expression, after all. And it comes absolutely free of cost.


nida

File picture of Nida Fazli and Jagjit Singh

jagpic

Jagjit Singh watches Deepak Pandit, Suresh Wadkar and Sonu NIgam celebrate his birthday

IT was a day of joy, it was a day of sorrow, it was an evening of celebration, it was an evening of mourning, it was a late legend’s 75th birth anniversary, it was a great poet’s final journey.

Ghazal fans and 1980s film music lovers would remember February 8, 2016, as the day 77-year-old poet Nida Fazli passed away when many were celebrating the late Jagjit Singh’s 75th birthday. Ironically, many will tell you that Jagjit passed away on October 10, 2011, exactly two days before Fazli was to turn 73.

The news of Fazli’s death came in the afternoon, initially through the social media and then through confirmation from online newspaper sites. Till then, people were posting Jagjit songs on Facebook and WhatsApp. This blogger had even written a tribute in The Hindu, Mumbai, a link of which is pasted below. Later in the evening, a huge concert was scheduled to celebrate the ghazal legend’s birthday.

With this background in mind, it will be interesting to chart the day’s progress. In the first half, the Jagjit ghazal ‘Duniya Jisey Kehte Hain’ and his Sarfarosh song ‘Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya’ made it to many online interactions. Some even shared ‘Kiska Chehra Ab Main Dekhoon’, the Jagjit-Alka Yagnik number from Tarkieb. Strangely, there was hardly any mention of Fazli, who wrote them.

Many other Jagjit favourites were shared. From Kafeel Aazer’s ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Phir’ to Sudarshan Faakir’s ‘Yeh Kaagaz Ki Kashti’, from Ameer Minai’s ‘Sarakhti Jaaye Rukh Se Naqaab’ to Qateel Shifai’s ‘Sadma Toh Hai Mujhe Bhi’, from Indeevar’s ‘Honton Se Choo Lo Tum’ (Prem Geet) to Kaifi Azmi’s ‘Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aaya’ (Arth), everyone posted without naming the poets. Strangely, only Ghalib was named for ‘Hazaaron Khwahishen’ and ‘Aah Ko Chahiye’, perhaps by those wanted to show off their Urdu poetry knowledge.

Once the news of Fazli’s death came in, his songs took over. Besides ‘Duniya Jisey Kehte Hain’, ‘Hoshwalon’ and ‘Kiska Chehra’, other Jagjit songs included ‘Har Taraf Har Jagah’, ‘Abhi Khushi Hai Na Koi Dard’ and ‘Apna Gham Leke Kahin Aur’. Non-Jagjit favourites like ‘Kabhi Kisiko Muqammal Jahaan Nahin Milta’ (Ahista Ahista), ‘Tu Is Tarah’ (Aap Toh Aise Na The) and ‘Aa Bhi Ja’ (Sur) were part of the share-list. Tributes were flashed across Facebook, and many responded with a formal ‘RIP’.

Cut to around 6.45 pm, when a serpentine queue was seen outside the Shanmukhananda Hall waiting for the Jagjit birthday concert. Many people seemed excited about Zakir Hussain and Sonu Nigam, who were to perform that night. Similar chats were heard in the canteen a few minutes later, but there was hardly any buzz about Fazli.

The Jagjit event turned out to be a perfect celebration. Beginning with a fusion set featuring violinist Deepak Pandit, drummer Ranjit Barot and keyboardist Atul Raninga, it went on to have ghazals by Hariharan and Suresh Wadkar, and some Jagjit songs by Sonu Nigam. With some accompaniment from Wadkar and violinist Pandit, he sang ‘Koi Yeh Kaise Bataaye’ (Arth), ‘Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho’ and ‘Honton Se Choolon Tum’, and with a pepped up Ranjit Barot drum section, ‘Sarakti Jaaye’.

Flautist Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia came next with Ustad Zakir Hussain, after which Kathak maestro Pt Birju Maharaj joined the tabla wizard on what was to be the evening’s highlight. At 78, the man danced so effortlessly. In the finale, Chaurasia, Birju Maharaj, Hariharan and Zakir came together on ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baaro’ and the Bhairavi composition ‘Na Maaro Bhar Pichkari’.

Chitra Singh later cut a cake with others joining in the Happy Birthday song. Up in Paradise, Jagjit probably was having a reunion with his old friend Nida Fazli, and telling him how happy he was with the celebrations down on earth.

The Hindu article on Jagjit Singh can be found on http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/the-king-of-ghazals/article8208339.ece

The cream of Clapton


ec2

Mike Hall, the man behind the Classic Clapton tribute

RETRO is king. Exactly a week after the previously-reviewed Elvis Presley tribute by Garry J Foley at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre, we had Mike Hall doing an Eric Clapton tribute.

This was on January 17, when the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana, Santa Cruz, was packed to capacity. Part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, the event ‘Classic Clapton’ was coordinated by Dereyk Talker.

Guitarist-vocalist Clapton has had thousands of followers in India. After all, he has done some great work over the years, right from bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos, to almost four decades of solo work.

Well, why are we repeating what everyone knows? Let’s suffice it to say that Hall, who hails from Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, did a stupendous job. His guitarwork was first-rate throughout, and though his vocal timbre was slightly different from the legend’s, he had the crowd singing along.

Hall had come to Mumbai in 2009. But while that was at Bandra’s St Andrew’s Auditorium, the open-air environment of WCG gave a completely different feel. It was a half-seating, half-standing arrangement for a mixed crowd, with people of all ages. While the youngsters just listened to and admired the ongoings, the middle-aged and even older people sang along and danced.

The previous day, this blogger missed Hall’s performance at Phoenix Marketcity in Kurla. At WCG, after the opening act Rebecca Nazz, he came on and did a string of Clapton hits. One of his early numbers was JJ Cale’s ‘After Midnight’, which had the audience on their feet. Other gems included the brilliant ‘Lay Down Sally’, the Willie Dixon-penned and Muddy Waters-popularised ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (Clapton played guitar on that, uncredited on the original album) and the Freddie King classic ‘Hideaway’.

The Cream masterpiece ‘White Room’ was done perfectly, specially the famous wah-wah coda. On a more romantic note came ‘Wonderful Tonight’, which Clapton had written for ex-wife Pattie Boyd. Other electric numbers were Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ (which Clapton had covered) and the Cream version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

The show also had an unplugged set, including Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’, the acoustic version of ‘Layla’, and ‘Tears In Heaven’, which Hall dedicated to the late David Bowie – the song was originally written by Clapton for his four-year-old son Conor, who died after falling from the 53rd floor.

Extra-popular songs like JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and the electric version of ‘Layla’ were kept for the latter part. All in all, the fans were thrilled by the fabulous selection, the quality of musicianship and the sheer liveliness of the show. For those who’ve had ‘blind faith’ in bluesbreaker Clapton, this was his ‘cream’.

See also https://narenmusicnotes.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/happy-70th-birthday-eric-clapton/


hari

Hariharan

WE had three days of music, featuring three different genres. From Friday, January 22, to Sunday, January 24, The Hindu group organised the ‘Mumbai for Chennai’ series to support Bhoomika Trust, which has been helping out in flood relief efforts in the Tamil Nadu capital. The event was presented by YES Bank and powered by Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.

The venue was G5A, the new location on Shakti Mills Lane in Mahalaxmi. It was a very intimate set-up, with a natural, mic-less sound that only used a couple of Omnis. As such, the artistes could be heard at their purest.

On the opening evening, vocalist Aruna Sairam presented abhangs, and explained the link between Maharashtrian and Carnatic music. Day 2 had a north-south jugalbandi between ace flautists Ronu Majumdar and Shashank Subrahmanyam, and on the final night, singer Hariharan gave a ghazal recital.

The newspaper assigned this blogger to cover the three evenings. For those who missed the reports, the links of all three write-ups are pasted below.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-repertoire-to-behold/article8147191.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/when-carnatic-met-hindustani/article8150169.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/a-masterclass-in-ghazals/article8154058.ece

Treat for ghazal lovers


ghazal

FOR the third successive year, the Ghazal Bahaar festival was enjoyed by the genre’s followers in Mumbai. After the two-day festival in 2014, it was cut short to one day last year. This time, it returned in its two-day format, on January 15 and 16.

There was a change in venue too, as the fiesta moved from Rangsharda in Bandra to Veer Savarkar auditorium, Shivaji Park. The quality of music, of course, remained as good as it was in the earlier episodes, as the line-up was a mix of established and young artistes. The festival was held in aid of SBMS Vriddh Anand Ashram, a Pune-based old age home.

Both evenings had their highlights. Day One began with senior artiste Ghansham Vaswani, who rendered four ghazals, including the popular ‘Uske Dushman Hain Bahut, Aadmi Achha Hoga’. His daughter Shivani Vaswani presented two. The evergreen Chandan Das came on next with the brilliant ‘Khuda Ka Zikr Karein Ya Tumhari Baat Karein’ and followed it up with three more, including ‘Na Jee Bhar Ke Dekha’.

Other high points were Malini Awasthi’s rendition of Amir Khusro’s ‘Kaahi Ko Byaahi Bides’ and an Awadhi folk song, Jazim Sharma’s performance of the Ghulam Ali-popularised ‘Faasle’ and Sraboni Chaudhuri’s excellent presentation of Shakeel Badayuni’s ‘Mere Humnafas Mere Hum Humnawa’, immortalised by Begum Akhtar. Anup Jalota was next, and his set’s high points were ‘Tumhare Shahar Ka Mausam and ‘Chand Angdaaiyan Le Raha Hai’.

If anything, the opening night had a few limitations. To begin with, probably because it was Sankranti, one saw quite a few empty seats, and the overall attendance may have been around 70 per cent. Secondly, the time management went awry, as some singers took 35 or 45 minutes, while Jazim was restricted to two songs and Sraboni only one. One missed Aditya Saraswat, who was scheduled, as he was unwell. When there are many performers, it’s essential to ensure everyone gets a fair chance, and youngsters should in fact be encouraged even more.

Thankfully, the second night made up for these drawbacks. The attendance was much higher and the crowd enthusiasm even more. Even though the programme ended around 11.30 pm, the singers got good time. Pooja Gaitonde, down with w high temperature and hurt ankle, sang three numbers, including Faiyyaz Hashmi’s ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’, made famous by Farida Khanum. Anurag Sharma, who often enthralls with Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh compositions, did a new set, including pieces written by Farhat Shahzad and Shiv Kumar Batalvi.

Tauseef Akhtar impressed on ‘Yeh Rang Ashkon Ka’, ‘Ishq Karo’ and the Veer Savarkar-penned ‘Yeh Hindustan Mera’. Delhi-based Radhika Chopra was simply charming on ‘Deewana Banaana Hai Toh’ and ‘Yun Na Reh Reh Kar Humein Tarsaaiye’, whereas Ashok Khosla impressed on his evergreen ‘Ajnabi Shehar Ke Ajnabee Raaste’. Bhupinder and Mitali rendered film ghazals like ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’, ‘Beti Na Beetayi Raina’ and ‘Huzoor Is Kadar Se’.

For the grand finale, the participants got together and rendered the ‘Haqeeqat’ hit ‘Hoke Majboor’. One of its antaras was brilliantly sung by Bangalore-based Biju Nair, who had come as a guest. It was an emotional moment for both singers and the audience.

All in all, it was a two-day treat. One wishes there are more festivals like this one and Khazana, spearheaded by Pankaj Udhas at the Trident hotel In July. Compared to Hindustani classical and film music-based shows, the number of ghazal events is very low. Hopefully, Khazana and Ghazal Bahaar may inspire more organisers to enter the fray.

A date with Elvis


elvis3

Garry J Foley poses with fans after the show

BLUE suede shoes made way for white leather ones. The bell-bottoms were straight out of the swinging sixties, and the thick designer belt was a retro fashion statement. The hairstyle, face cut, gait and, body language were the same. The smile was worth a million dollars, the dancing phenomenal and the voice a marvelous photocopy.

How on earth did Elvis Presley land up at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre on Sunday night? I mean, didn’t he die some 38 years ago? Obviously, something was fishy.

Ladies and gents, shake hands with Garry J Foley, award-winning Elvis impersonator who gave Mumbai one of its most memorable evenings in recent memory. We have all seen tribute bands, playing music of the Beatles, Eagles, ABBA and Cliff Richard, but the Elvis show was the closest one could get to the King. We rocked, we rolled and we reeled.

Garry came from Las Vegas, with a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer. And from the moment he walked on stage around 730 pm till he finished around 945 pm – a very long break excluded – he just stunned the audience. The men were zapped, the women went ga-ga, and the kids wondered what their current generation might be missing.

As expected, Garry played a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and ballads, with some blues and standards thrown in. An outstanding performance with an-extra-tight backing band, but before we mention what all he played, one serious objection. How could he dare skip ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ – two songs that everyone loves, fan or not?

Yes, the other hits kept flowing. ‘It’s Now Or Never’ was one of the early choices, followed by a brilliant medley of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘All Shook Up’. Versions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary’, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ were done to perfection. So were old rock n’ roll classics like Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’ and Carl Perkins’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.

For blueshounds, it was ‘Steamroller Blues’. For the romantic types, he had ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ and ‘Always On My Mind’. And for those who wanted vintage Elvis, there were ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. But the two highlights were ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’, done with supreme charm. There were many gooseflesh moments, but these two numbers topped them all.

There was plenty of showmanship too. Often, Garry walked up the steps of the amphitheatre to shake hands with the audience and even kiss their fingers. At times, he called them in front and exchanged the mic, or just joined them in a dance step or two. He would often address the crowd with ‘Ladies and Gents’, and move the same way as Elvis did.

There were emotional moments too, as two minutes of silence was observed in memory of Ramesh Walunj, who lost his life last week trying to save three girls from drowning at Bandstand. A token contribution for his family was also collected from the audience.

The show was part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, and was coordinated and compered by Dereyk Talker. On January 17, as part of the series, the Classic Clapton tribute gig will feature Mike Hall at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana. It promises to be a second super-Sunday in a row, though it doesn’t seem like we will get over Mr Elvis Foley so easily.

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