Very few people would disagree with the fact that A.R. Rahman is an artist par excellence, and his music has the ability to hypnotize you. That’s exactly what happened Aug. 18 inside the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., and Aug. 19 at the Anaheim Arena in Anaheim., Calif., when the Oscar-winning musician headlined concerts that were attended by thousands of music fans.
With a heady mix of music, visual arts, lights and sounds, the Hindi-Tamil-Telugu concert, called “A.R. Rahman Live,” was a three-hour music spectacle that fans have come to expect from a talent of his caliber.
Even though Rahman was accompanied by a mix of supremely talent singers – Neeti Mohan, Udit Narayan, Jonita Gandhi, Javed Ali and Haricharan – the singer/composer remained a constant presence on stage.
Rahman had his finger on the pulse of the audience right from the outset. His performance was dominated by myriad styles, and the entertainment quotient on the show kept going a notch higher with every new act.
An exemplary pianist, the musician, flanked by his equally talented band, presented a medley of his compositions in his opening act. Much like a rock concert, the act, replete with psychedelic lights, saw Rahman jog fans’ memory, with songs like “Muqabala Muqabala” and “Loose Control.”
Continuing to emanate his rock star-like aura, he went on to perform “Dil Se,” the hugely popular song from the 1998 film starring Shah Rukh Khan.
Amidst roaring chants of “Rahman!” “Rahman!” from his overzealous fans, the musician continued to deliver many of his hit numbers.
His performances were interspersed with those of the other singers on the roster. Coming in quick succession, they kept the packed house engaged. A lot of those performances were duets. Jonita Gandhi and Javed Ali presented a mesmerizing duet on “Mere Paas Hai Tu”; Gandhi, Haricharan and Neeti Mohan came together for “Agar Tum Saath Ho”; Rahman collaborated with Gandhi, Mohan and Linda Lind for “Enna Sona Kyun Rab Ne Banaya”; Gandhi and Haricharan sang “Saans Mein Teri”; and Udit Narayan sang “O Mitwa” with the four young singers.
Narayan, who delivered multiple blockbuster songs during his reign in the ‘90s and 2000s, showed that his voice can still create ripples. Even though he wasn’t given a lot of time to perform on stage, he went on to win several hearts with songs like “Taal Se Taal Mila.”
Each of these singers have lent their voice to the top actors and actresses of Bollywood, and during the course of the concert, they showed off their vocal virtuosity in solo performances that drew thunderous applause.
Gandhi’s offerings like “Kismat Se Tum Humko Mile Ho” and “Pyaar Yeh Jaane Kaisa Hai” gave fans instant goosebumps, while Mohan’s rendition of “Jiya Re” from Shah Rukh Khan’s “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” encouraged them to get up from their seats and shake a leg, and Ali enamored the crowd with songs like “Jashan-E-Baahara.”
Rahman sat at the piano throughout the concert so the audience did not miss him even for a second.
Music composer/drummer/singer Ranjit Barot also joined the singers for a few songs.
The concert gave fans a little bit of everything: romantic ballads, rock songs, soulful numbers, and Sufi songs.
Rahman is known for creating some of the best-known Sufi numbers in Bollywood. So, the concert would have been incomplete without those memorable songs.
The Mozart of Madras, as Rahman is fondly known, gave the high-tempo extravaganza a break and presented Sufi devotional songs like “Phool Khile Bagiyan Mein” and “Kun Faaya Kun.” He was accompanied by Haricharan, Ali and a few other singers. Ali presented a rousing rendition of “Arziyan,” a segment that created a trance-like euphoria.
Beginning the act on a somber note, Rahman told the attendees that this show was a benefit concert for the flood-affected victims in Kerala. The southern state is facing its worst floods in 100 years.
Appealing for help, Rahman said: “Be generous. Thank you.”
Another remarkable act of the show was a creative collaboration between pianist Rahman and sitarist Asad Khan, and fans just couldn’t get enough of the duo.
The concert was punctuated with musical gems such as these and the surprise element made the show much more exciting.
For his Indian American fans originally from South India, Rahman and Haricharan presented a few Tamil and Telugu hits like “Humma Humma” and “Urvasi Urvasi.” Donning a golden blazer and black pants, Rahman strode across the stage singing couplets from various tracks.
During the last few minutes of the show, Rahman was joined on stage by his young brigade, who went on to perform songs like “Rangeela Re.”
He ended the concert with a bang, delivering his most recognized song, “Jai Ho,” from the Academy Award-winning film, “Slumdog Millionaire.” The song, which was playing literally everywhere when it released, fetched Rahman his first two Oscars in 2009 for the ‘Best Original Music Score’ and ‘Best Original Song.’
At the Anaheim concert, the magnificent stage was set with the orchestra stretching from one side to the other and a giant media screen partitioned into three portions. Huge 3D images of Indian musical symbols danced within the cubes and squares on the screen creating a magical and party atmosphere in the arena.
The showman appeared on stage looking dapper in a gleaming black jacket, fancy black pants and shiny shoes. The show started with a bang, with the maestro presenting an instrumental medley of his biggest blockbusters. Each note was met with multi-colored psychedelic lights dancing across the stage and on the audience creating unbridled enthusiasm in the arena resulting in the loudest of cheers from the audience.
Following his blockbuster entrance, Neeti Mohan, looking beautiful in a blue chiffon saree with a gold cape came on stage, singing the melodious “Jiya Jale Jo Jale” from “Dil Se.” She was accompanied by Haricharan, who spouting the Malayalam lyrics with ease. Jonita Gandhi, dressed in a purple sequined top and white jeans came in next, singing “Chinna Chinna Aasai,” from the “Roja,” which is the maestro’s first movie as a composer.
As Rahman sang the Tamil version of the soulful “Tu Hi Re,” the audience went into a tizzy. Udit Narayan came in next, singing the crowd favorites like “Yeh Ajnabi Tu Bhi Kabhie” and “Taal Se Taal Mila.”
Javed Ali showcased his vocal strength superbly by singing songs like “Meri Paas Hai Tu Mere Saath Hai.”
All the singers went on to present a host of popular songs.
Next, the prolific composer announced a special medley of his songs that showcased his 25-plus years of work, with all the singers taking turns in presenting delightful songs such as “Kehna Hi Kya” and “O Bhanvre.”
The highlight of the evening was a Sufi symphony by Rahman with Javed Ali, Haricharan and a couple of other singers. The transfixed fans waved their lighted call phones in the air creating an ethereal display.
The first look of “99 Songs,” a film written and produced by Rahman and directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, was shared during the event. “99 Songs” is set to be released in Tamil and Hindi in 2018.
Rahman and his team continued to entertain the crowd with several performances in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu that thrilled the audience to bits.
The concert ended with the boisterous “Jai Ho.”
555 Entertainment and Singh is King Entertainment in association with Glam Entertainment presented the Anaheim show.
The Oakland show was presented by Golden Eagle Productions, Navin Tek and Ritu Nischal of Shor Media and Tobel Thomas of Modern Beats. The grand sponsors were Roger Bakshi of Cal Coast Financial Corp., Kaajal Shahani of Intero, Ashutosh Joshi of PNG Jewelers and Sunny Singh of Yours Humanly.
— Los Angeles concert report by Sudha Prakash