If Deep Purple fans went home a little too early for their liking, fans of Byan Adams had little to complain about at the April 4 Bangalore concert, with their God singing away into the night, an hour longer than planned, and taking them right into Heaven. The cheering, screaming, smoking, drinking, 35,000-strong crowd provided Adams, dressed in whites with BAD written on his butt -- as befitting a God of Pop -- all the energy he needed to belt out (10-year-old) evergreen numbers like 18 'til I die, the Michael Kamen-penned (Everything I Do) I do it for you, Summer of '69 and loads of other teeny-bopper favourites. Though the music wasn't heavy enough for people to headbang, there were plenty of people there who knew every single line, inflection and pause of Bryan's songs.
The show's MC was testosterone-filled MTV VJ, Nikhil Chinnappa who set the pace for the rest of the evening.
The opening act was by Antaragni, the Bangalore band that finally saw their dream come true -- playing to an audience of 30,000 plus. The band that has been around for sometime. They did not disappoint their small, but faithful fan following, some of who had come to the show only to listen to them.
After Nikhil Chinnappa's introduction -- "they're the best Bangalore has to offer" -- Kerala-based drummer Joeboy came on to the stage. Joeboy is one of the few drummers who has been featured in the World Drummer's Magazine as one of India's best. Cryptic bassist Prakash took over from him and played the famous Urvashi (of A R Rahman's Kaadhalan fame) riff, which kicked up quite a ruckus in the crowd. Then came Manoj George on Western Classical Violin who did a riff that could have come straight from Grappeli's or Gershwin's songbook.
Mysore H N Bhaskar joined him on the Karnatak classical violin and displayed his skills with a very Indian classical piece which provided the perfect foil for Shaydrach Solomon's jazz-blues riff on the keyboard. Ravichandra Kulur came next on the flute. Followed by George Varghese on the electric guitar. Raghupathy Dixit, the leader and lead vocalist of the Band, appeared last on the acoustic rhythm guitar: What a way to do a spontaneous sound-check!
They started of with a Karnatak-rock version of the Eagles' Hotel California which got the crowd crooning along with Raghu's powerful voice, as a cool wind (bringing ominous news of imminent rain) ruffled their hair. The grand finale of the song was not done on the guitar but, adding a new twist, on Manoj and Bhaskar's violins.
After winning the crowd's uproarious acceptance, Antaragni moved onto one of their own compositions, Like cocaine. The song didn't sound as good as when it was sung at earlier Antaragni concerts. But that's probably because the sound allotted to them in this show was only 20 percent (about 12-15,000 watts) of the total volume and even Raghu's forceful voice failed to carry. It still impressed the crowd, though some of them were getting impatient for Bryan to come on stage.
Antaragni then played another of their compositions before they moved on to one of Raghu's favourite artistes, Sting. They played the classic Fields of gold -- a respite from the normal as-is covers that don't sidetrack even a little bit, Antaragni improvised on it by adding a violin solo here and a guitar solo there.
Their last number was one of their own which the crowd loved: Mysore se aayee woh. Antaragni did not have much time to showcase their talents nor did they have very good sound, which is essential for any band. Though they were booed towards the end -- any opening act has to be prepared for this -- they should take this in their stride and consider the show an opportunity to get known.
Antaragni has been around for quite some time. They shot to fame (in Bangalore) at the National Law School competition a few years ago. The band has gone through various changes and a few rough patches when it looked like they were going to split up, but they managed to emerge as a band that never compromises on their quality for the sake of popularity. Raghu has just signed a contract with BPL's Indigo Records for a world music album which will feature talented musicians from around the world.
After Antaragni's act, there was a considerable pause in the music -- like in the Deep Purple show after Thermal and a Qurater's act -- when Bryan's team come on stage and checked on his instruments and monitors. Its time the organizers pulled up their socks.
Though there were a lot of people who raised false alarms - not many could see the stage and the giant screens refused to work for a while - the crescendo that the crowd's fever-induced screams and squeals reached when Bryan actually stepped on the stage unmistakably rang true.
Bryan started off with Coming back to you which got the crowd squealing with delight -- they had until then, only heard it on his cassettes or as covered by various local bands -- as the Real McCoy sang it for them. The 80,000 watts of sound weren't enough for the people in the Rs 300 enclosure. The screaming and shouting completely drowned the music, which didn't sound like music from that distance.
The threat of rain as Bryan sang Cloud No 9 also got the organizers worried about the equipment and made them lower the sound. Bryan's bass failed to carry, too.
Mickey Curry's drumming was excellent though Bryan's claim that no one could beat the drums as hard as he didn't go down too well with hard rock fans who said that no one could beat Led Zeppelin's John Bonham when it came to hard drumming.
Keith Scott did some excellent guitar work. There weren't any mind-blowing solos to write home about, though. Oh, yes. There was a blues number that Bryan had composed especially for Bangalore called the Bangalore blues. Standard 12-bar stuff. Though his soft and tender voice was too cold to do a blues number, Keith Scott's guitaring more than made up for Bryan's lack of feel. Though he tried very hard, a paraphrasing of that Bruce Springsteen song I think sums up what I feel: His best was never good enough.
Apart from Bryan onstage, there was a hysterical teenager from Delhi who got the opportunity (because of some competition) to sing (shakily) the classic When you're gone, along with him.
There were plenty of things happening offstage, too: the usual scene of hapless boyfriends being made to carry their Adams-infatuated girlfriends on their shoulders. People trying to bum cigarettes off everybody else. Drunks trying to push their way to the front and other drunks fighting them off, etc.
The only thing that was bad in the concert was the sound (which is major). Everything, including the three encores and the extra hour that Bryan played was a boon straight from the Gods for the crowd.
Bryan moves on to Mumbai from here and then onto Manama (Bahrain) and completes his Asian tour in Oman.
He will always remain the heart-stopper, crowd-wooer and excellent musician that he is and his stopover on Bangalore will not be forgotten for sometime to come.
Niki N Kalpa
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