Concerts, Music

2020 Goals (a small one)

So I was doing a bit of the ol’ interweb-crawling before heading to bed, and I came across a piece of news that got blood rushing to my head. An Instagram account attributed to the band Rage Against The Machine has put up a single image.

(I screenshotted the image so that it does not suddenly disappear off the face of the internet if the band decides they’re too cool for Instagram)

Yes. The Rage Against the Machine, whose last live appearance was in 2011, at a festival called LA Rising. That year I was in Los Angeles, sans car, barely skimming the surface of what the city had to offer. So of course I missed it, and the band never performed together again.

RATM has been on my top 5 Acts to Watch Live, and it looks like next year is when I make it out to Coachella again, after 5 years of staying away from the festival. Or maybe it may make more sense to just head out to New Mexico or Arizona to see the band, considering Coachella logistics.

Also, I cringe at the thought of being an RATM fan 20 years ago, with little context to their music, other than them being this angry-sounding band with catchy guitar riffs that were great to head-bang to. “The Machine” in their name, in my head, correlated to the System, and of course, we all hated the system, which was all teachers and dumb rules and everything that reeked of adulthood. So it felt good to sing along with “Fuck you I won’t do what to tell me”. It did not help that I heard their music for the first time on the Matrix OST, which obfuscated their political messages even more. In a time when I was still trying to define what “cool” was, and whether I was part of that club or not, Rage Against The Machine’s music presented the right kind of credentials.

It was much, much later that a better knowledge of US politics, history, and culture helped me understand the “Rage” in their name. The band’s lyrics are, in case you didn’t know already, at odds with US domestic and foreign policy, and are a direct critique of corporations, cultural imperialism, and systemic oppression of marginalized groups in America. Once upon a time, I wondered at why exactly the band spoke of convicted murderers and revolutionary Mexican organizations, and wondered if they were taking performance art too far by insisting on shooting a video in front of the New York Stock Exchange, or hanging upside down flags from their speakers during a live TV show. I had misgivings about the violent protests their music seemed to incite, and sort of understood why they were the only band in the infamous Clear Channel memorandum to have all songs banned from radio channels in the aftermath of 9/11.

But you live and learn. Twenty years later, I know America a little differently than I did back when I just graduated college. I am a lot more aware, both from a cultural and sociopolitical standpoint, about what makes this country tick, and the undercurrents of wrongness that pervade American society. The truths to power that the band spits out through their music feel like a necessary part of the American discourse. “Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses” now hold more import than the chorus of ‘Killing in the Name’. And the song that plays at the end of The Matrix, the one that introduced me to the band, has these lines:

Networks at work, keepin' people calm
Ya know they murdered X and tried to blame it on Islam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot

As it turns out, I am not alone in loving the band without understanding them. Republican ex-House speaker Paul Ryan was apparently an RATM fan, and Tom Morello wrote a scathing Rolling Stone opinion piece calling him “the embodiment of the machine”.

These, by the way, are the list of books in the album notes of Evil Empire, their second album.

  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  • Capital, Volume I by Karl Marx
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  • Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara
  • Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton
  • Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
  • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
  • Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
  • Live from Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal
  • Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
  • Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism by Alexander Berkman
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky
  • Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson
  • Walden and Resistance to Civil Government by Henry David Thoreau
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Another Country by James Baldwin

I am still working my way through this list, and I do not claim to be an expert. But I shut up, and listen, and read, and read a little more, and every day the world comes a little more into focus.

Concerts, Music

Twenty Fifteen, Post Three: On Stromae


My favorite 2014 concert happened by accident.

‘Alors On Danse’ exploded into my playlist five years ago with the intensity of an Akira-esque thermonuclear bomb, displacing the current summer dance favorite ‘We No Speak Americano’.[ref]Fun fact: Renato Carosone’s Sicilian original plays in a scene in the George Clooney movie ‘The American’, which I watched recently. The song plays on the TV when the actor is sitting down for dinner at a cafe. That brought back memories of my first week in Romania, when in my third visit to a pizzeria near my apartment, I noticed that everybody in the place had gone quiet and were pretending not to glance at me. A quick look at the TV, and I realized why – Raj Kapoor’s Awaara was playing on national TV, with subtitles. “Vagabondul”, remarked the waiter as everyone, myself included, broke into laughter.[/ref] The song somehow managed to get everything right. The happy marriage of the bass-and-brass phrases, accompanied by what sounded like an over-excited poodle running around yapping in time with the beats – did it matter that I could not understand what the song was saying, other than “let’s dance”?

Stromae was due to perform at Los Angeles in October. I knew that in advance, having kept an eye on the events schedule at the Fonda Theater. I was more interested in La Roux and The Tune-Yards who were playing around the same time. I briefly contemplated buying tickets to go see him, but spending $40 on what I thought was a one-hit wonder – not my cup of tea. Besides, tickets weren’t sold out, and isn’t that a sign that maybe he wasn’t cool enough? Yes, shameful admission: sometimes it feels better to get tickets to sold-out shows. Bam!

A few days before the show, my boss – who is Moroccan – remarked that he was interested in Stromae. He had been listening to his new album obsessively, and mentioned that it was really good. Racine Carrée (which means ‘square root’) was indeed appealing, but did not grab me immediately.That is the thing with music – you need time and patience and maybe a little bit of willingness to get into something new. The one song that sounded super-catchy had the words ‘rendezvous’ in the chorus, and that was the song I kept humming to myself every now and then. It appeared that tickets were indeed sold out, even though they showed up as available on the website. I did some halfhearted Craigslist-scouring, but to no avail. Stub-hub, never one of my go-to sites, showed obscene prices. My Stromae experience was over before it even began.

About 3 days before the show, a friend sent an email to me and a few others about how her friend was traveling to France and would miss the concert; she was traveling at the same time as well, so would anyone be interested in two tickets at the floor price? I was, and another person in the mailing list that I did not know at the time was, too. And that is how I landed up at the Fonda Theater that October night, maybe one of 10 non French-speaking people in the audience.

My ticket was for the balcony. I tried wheedling my way into the floor, but the security guard, normally more than willing to listen, was unrelenting. The floor was packed, the balcony was too. October in LA is not much different from August in LA, and the air-conditioning – even with an expensive beer – were not enough to quell that feeling of impending heat-related collapse. I found out that the Fonda had a terrace with turf carpeting. It was worth missing the opening act to sit under the stars and contemplate cutting and running. Yes, I was this close to just leaving.

I did not leave. I remember dancing like crazy. I remember a French girl in front of me who did not stop screaming, dancing and singing along throughout the show, and her American boyfriend awkwardly looked at her, shaking his head every time she asked him to dance. Douche. I remember being mesmerized by the strobe lights throbbing in time to the tribal drums of the opening song (it was ‘Ta Fete’, the first song in Racine Carrée), the crowd chanting along with the chorus. I remember the trippy animations that accompanied ‘Humain L’eau’, with its nutty, dissonant riff. Stromae taking the piss out of Americans and French people at the same time while talking about french fries (“They are not French and they are not American. They are from Belgium”), neatly seguing into the opening of “Moules Frites”. [ref]Obviously, I did not know the song titles back then, it was only afterwards, when I got into the album with the intent of reliving the sounds I heard in the concert that I was able to figure out which song was what.[/ref]The guy had a bum leg, and still managed to dance around like a maniac. He was a bonafide star, I kid you not. If it sounds like I have a gigantic man-crush, yes, I am not denying it.

It was the first concert where the artiste thanked nearly every member of his crew, from the light-man to the costume designer to the chaffeurs. It was one of the craziest encores I had seen in a while. From collapsing on stage while performing the gut-wrenching “Formidable”, to being carried in like a stiff mannequin for ‘Papaoutai’; from singing an acapella version of the rendezvous song with all the musicians (‘Tous les mêmes’ is the title), sans microphones, and with the entire audience shushing each other, to just being plain fucking awesome, Stromae did it all. He promised to be back in LA in 2015, and that is one show I won’t miss this year.

Racine Carrée has been a constant on my play queue in the second half of the year. It is not just the music. The videos – good lord, the videos are incredible. They also come with sub-titles, an added bonus, and it becomes clearer why this guy is such a phenomenon in Francophone countries. ‘Formidable’ was shot guerilla-style at a Brussels tram station; Stromae appeared drunk, incoherently shouting at passersby, later accosted by policemen who tell him they are big fans and ask if they should drop him home. ‘Ta fete’ shows him at his flamboyant best, overseeing a gladiatorial contest in a get-up that comes with a beret, trenchcoat and a microphone cane, how cool is that? ‘Tous les mêmes’ has him in drag, playing both the male and female adversaries in an eternal war of the sexes, that culminates in a dance-off. It also showcases Stromae’s complete unself-consciousness in front of the camera; one minute, he is a rakish nose-picking boor, grabbing at his girlfriend’s ass while heading out the door; the other, he is a seething woman remonstrating her boyfriend’s lack of interest in her.

The crowd-pleaser of the album is undoubtedly ‘Papaoutai’ (“Where are you, papa?”), which is ironic considering that this has the saddest setting ever. A kid tries to engage with a glassy-eyed mannequin of a father while other kids have their real dads with them. “Everybody knows how to make babies/ but nobody knows how to make papas. Mister know-it-all would have inherited it, that’s it/he probably learnt it while sucking his thumbs”, says the lyrics as the song jumps from sadness to anger to resignation, even as it pulsates with thumping beat and a chorus worthy of hosannas. I find the tone of the song- and Stromae’s delivery of these lyrics – reminiscent of some of Eminem’s best work. Is it worth noting that the artiste’s father – a Rwandan architect who later died in the 1994 genocide in his home country – was absent for most of his childhood?

Concerts, Music

Concert Diaries: Ariana Hall, Live At The Hotel Cafe

The Hotel Cafe, located on Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard, is an odd little place. You’re supposed to enter around the back, and they don’t card you when going in – or maybe I just looked over 21. You walk inside, pass through a corridor – a door to the side says “Performers only” –  and enter the main hall. There is a stage inside, and six tables close to it, a bunch of chairs clustered around them. That’s it, six tables.  And a bar. And you ponder why this place is considered one of the best music venues in the US, popular enough to warrant its own nationwide tour. A look at previous lineups reveals names like KT Tunstall, Imogen Heap, John Mayer, Weezer and Badly Drawn Boy have played there before.

Oh, and they have a really funny FAQ page.

I was there last evening because pals Amy and Andrew told me about Ariana Hall performing there. Both of them knew Ariana personally, and I had met her before through them. We had a nice dinner together, all four of us, at her place last November, one night before she was due to leave for a tour. While I had heard her CD before, I had never seen her perform. Andrew wasn’t able to make it last evening, but Amy and I decided to go. We bus-ed it to Hollywood. Reached early, strolled along Hollywood Boulevard to the venue.

It’s nearly a year since I’ve been in LA, but going down the the Walk of Fame, seeing the bronze stars engraved in the sidewalk below my feet – known and unknown names on them – still feels surreal. I subconsciously try to avoid walking on the stars themselves, it feels kind of disrespectful. I think the day I begin walking on them is the day I stop making a big deal of being in LA. Don’t want that to happen.

We decided to pop into Umami Burgers, where I ordered an Earth burger. Yes, vegetarian, don’t ask. On the patio outside, they were screening ‘Back to the Future II’ for a bunch of fans – the lovely LA weather made it a beautiful night. The food, though meat-deprived, was delicious.

Done with dinner, we arrived at Hotel Cafe to find all the tables taken, just as the reviewer on Yelp had said (“get there early. Or be prepared to stand around holding your beer”). I tried scouting for a strategic location to do just that, but Amy miraculously managed two chairs around a table where a single lady was sitting. A pretty waitress came by – I liked the way she asked “you guys ok?”, instead of “what can I get you?” We were, but I ordered a Corona anyway.

There was someone already on stage – a pretty lady with a guitar, singing sad love songs, with the right amount of humor in between (“That was supposed to be a downer”, she quipped, when the audience whooped in appreciation after a song). Her name, I found out later when looking up the calendar, was Brooke Northrop. She’s pretty darn good – listen to ‘Room to Breathe’ on her page. “Just wait till Ariana starts”, Amy whispered, noticing my reactions.  Hmm, talk about expectation-buildup. Brooke finished her set with a Ben Folds cover, and the crowd suddenly began to swell. In about 4 minutes, there were four taps on my shoulder, people asking if I was staying for the next show. Oh yes, I was, thank you.

Amy was right. Ariana live knocked my socks off. She started with ‘Mmm(I Like You)’. I had heard the song before on her website, and it did not do much for me. But live, stripped of the violin and the bells and with just a voice and a guitar, the song bubbled with delicious passion. For the next bunch of songs, a bunch of musicians joined her – a guitarist and occasional banjo/ukulele player, a drummer and a bassist switching between a double bass and an electric bass guitar. Ariana herself switched between the guitar and the piano. Most of the songs she sang were original compositions, some of them were co-written, and nearly all of them were like gut-punches that made me grin like an idiot.

The positive response from the audience was tremendous. At one point, it felt like Ariana knew everyone in there; knowing her, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched. One of the songs that stood out for me was  a musical interpretation of a Tony Barnstone poem called ‘The War is Over’, because of the playful way it began, and the words. Umm, not that I knew who Tony Barnstone was before Ariana mentioned the source, his book Tongue of War, a collection of poems on World War IIAnother song had the musicians step away from the microphones to go totally unplugged, made possible only because of the intimacy the venue offered. Every note, every strum rang clearly through the hall, and the applause at the end of it was impressive. Amy’s whoops, for the record, put everyone else’s to shame. I tried matching up, but a recent cold had soaked away my vocal chords. Ariana went on to play one of her songs from the movie Au Pair Kansas, and ended her set with a two-song medley, one of which was from an upcoming Judd Apatow movie. (Where she sings. And plays herself. This woman is unstoppable.)

At the end of it all, Ariana sang out her thank-you’s, but we did not let her go that easy. She wrapped it up with a single-song encore – which I found a bit of a downer, but hey, you can’t have it all. I’ve decided I like Hotel Cafe a lot, and apparently the Pierces are playing there on January 17th. For the $15 admission fee and the kind of vibe about the place, it’s totally worth the price of admission. I am so there.

Then I got back home and ironed clothes until 2 AM, with ‘Mmm (I Like You) playing in my head.


(Not from yesterday, but a good live performance of the song by her. Ignore the noise of the crowd.)

Concerts, Music, Myself

Concert Diaries: James Blake, Live At The Music Box

One of the happiest aspects of moving to LA has been this – anytime I listen to a new artiste, or even an old favorite, I go to the corresponding page and look at their scheduled appearances. In nearly all cases, the artiste is scheduled to perform in this city. Maybe it’s just my choice of musicians, but the ones I’ve been to in the recent past have performed in small, intimate locations – the Wiltern, the Greek Theater, The Music Box. The last I went to was James Blake, last Monday. I had a great time.

Blake makes my kind of music. The kind that refuses to let me parallel-process as I listen to it. Moody, atmospheric synth-collages dance around his voice, which itself is auto-tuned, flange-layered, digitally masticated beyond recognition. Hearing his self-titled album for the first time was a sort of quasi-religious experience. I remember sitting in a corner that night with my earphones, my eyes closed, trying to take in every nuance of ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ as it played over and over. That particular song touched a raw nerve – a plaintive five-line refrain that whispered and stormed, echoed and warbled, as the world changed around it. I had associated Blake’s style with that of a solo music-smith’s digital experiments, that would lose its potency live. Sometimes, the mystery behind the curtain – the smoke, the mirrors – is necessary to accentuate the musicmanship. Intrigued by the idea of a live performance, I went looking for his videos online. And was blown away a second time.

As a venue, the Music Box falls into the mid-sized category, perfect for someone like Blake. I got there early – not a bad thing at all, as when the doors opened at 8, I headed straight to the front of the floor and stayed put. For what seemed like hours and hours, groan. Teengirl Fantasy took the stage at exactly 9 PM, and played a set that blew ears, minds and expectations. I had never heard of them before, but whew, their sound-cloud offering does not get a fraction of the vibe of their live set, where thumping bass loops mesh with otherworldly sounds.

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You knew Blake was coming onstage when the stage lights turned blue. (No, seriously. That’s the predominant color on his album cover. I was expecting that, yeah) Right from the opening song – ‘Unluck’, the first track on his album – Blake and his musical cohorts on drums and sampler/guitar seemed to bend the rules of sound and light that night, playing to an appreciative audience that cheered and woo-hoo-ed at every opportunity. Weirdly enough, there were cheers even mid-song, forcing Blake to break character and smile impishly, in the middle of some particularly soulful passages.

Random observations about the show:

  • The way the singer’s voice shattered my assumptions. It surprised me to see just how much of Blake’s voice is really his voice, not electronically manipulated or enhanced – especially in songs like ‘Give Me My Month’, where it’s just him and the piano. He is a tremendously gifted singer, and it was awe-inspiring to see how the vocal calisthenics that appeared studio-tweaked were just raw talent.
  • I liked the way Ben Assiter used both a drum machine and an acoustic drum-kit, sometimes simultaneously. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I am obsessed with sounds, and this is what I mean by a peek at the bones of a song – the realization, for example, that the sound of the hi-hat on Blake’s cover of Feist’s ‘Limit to your Love’ is really a hi-hat.
  • ‘I Never Learned To Share’ and ‘Lindisfarne’, two songs where Blake actually sequences and layers his voice, gave me goosebumps.
  • The new songs they played, one to close the show, the other in the encore, sounded more upbeat, much unlike Blake’s usual style, making for a concert where the melancholy, sparse melodies were punctuated with very peppy, head-bopping sequences.  And it also makes me happy to know that Blake is not sticking to the style that has worked for him, and is trying out different things. It’s also made me fairly sure that I am going to see this guy the next time he performs in LA.
  • The throbbing bass, oh dear god, especially on the encore track ‘Anti-War Dub’ and ‘Limit to your Love’. Think about the deepest, most gut-rattling growl of a subsonic frequency you’ve ever heard, and you’ll probably understand. Maybe.
  • Blake introduced drummer Ben Assiter and guitarist Rob McAndrews as his high-school friends, who have been accompanying him since the very beginning of his career. That made me smile.
  • My favorite Blake song, in case you haven’t figured it out already, is ‘The Wilhelm Scream’. It was the last song (pre-encore), just like I had expected, but maybe because I had already you-tubed it, the song did not have the level of spontaneity to it as the others. Perhaps that is not so surprising after all, considering how much these guys must have played the track live.
  • This did not however prevent me from recording the song myself, on the phone.

Note: the pictures were taken off the iPhone, please excuse the poor quality.

AR Rahman, Life, Music

A most unexpected Rahman concert

The first, and only, AR Rahman concert I had been to was in Hyderabad, in 2003. It was the first time Rahman had ever toured, and expectations were high, the man himself had not sold out was at the top of his game, and I had all-access backstage passes. Since then, I’ve passed on every ARR concert that happened in the vicinity, partly because I could not really top the 2003 experience, and partly because there was not really anything new happening in any of the concerts – you could make out parts being badly lip-synched, there would be the mandatory Sivamani jam, garish background dancers, and a bunch of crowd-pleasing songs. Ho-hum.

But when Sasi told me about Rahman playing at the Hollywood Bowl in July, I was struck with that Rahmantic yearning again. And that’s how we landed up there this Sunday, with a bottle of wine, bags of popcorn, and a cumulative high after listening to ‘Jiya Se Jiya’ in the car. (the Hollywood Bowl allows you to bring your own food in, which was a pleasant surprise) As expected, the place was desi-ville, right from the parking lot to the crowded stands. (Which also meant there was a great deal of queue-bumping. Or queue-nonexistence.) A bhangra group, apparently a bunch of SoCal dancers called the Sher Foundation were performing at the entrance and inviting passers-by to join in, leading to much exhibition of left feet.

The concert began with a performance by Rhythms of Rajasthan, a folk singing troupe. Nobody really paid them much attention, people were still streaming in, it was not dark enough to see the screens, and there were no crunchy beats to make you get up and dance, yo. Karsh Kale was up next. He played an excellent 45-minute set, with some great singers joining him onstage, as well as a female violinist named Lili Haydn, who owned. Salim Merchant came onstage for a bit, jamming to his song ‘Shukran Allah’ from Kurbaan with Kale and his crew. Overall, a fantastic performance, and I was primed for the evening. But no ARR in sight, instead Sher Foundation and something called Bollywood Step Dance came onstage and did what every wannabe on every talent show on every TV channel does – dance to Bollywood songs. Omkara, Jab We Met, facepalm. Thankfully, this did not last too long.

The announcer came on stage, did his usual Rahman spiel. Mispronounced name, check. Slumdog Millionaire mention, check. Audience going wild, check. Random drunk Tamil dude screaming ‘thalaivar’ over and over again, check. Conductor Matt Dunkley walked in. The opening sequence to Enthiran played on the giant screen, and the crowd roared as Robonikanth sauntered into view. The music began to play, slowly building, and the choir launched into ‘Arima Arima’. But whoa, it was a version much different from the one on the soundtrack. I believe the precise moment I began to gape with disbelief was when ‘Arima’ became a rearranged ‘Puthiya Manithan’ Because this was good, guys. This was not stick-to-the-crowd-pleasers Rahman I was expecting. The  Spirit of Unity tour in 2003 had the bombastic ‘Oruvan Oruvan’ from Muthu opening every show. The overture to that song is a magnificent orchestral piece that was tweaked a little, so that the meaty beats and SPB’s robust vocals that lead to the song became a bubbly hymn of anticipation, driving fanboys like yours truly delirious with happiness. This version of Enthiran evoked something quite like that. But I expected the singers to emerge any minute, destroying those few minutes of sonic adventurism that we were witnessing. I was wrong.

Rahman came onstage, talked a bit about how happy he was to be there. Said something funny about this not being a ‘rockstar event’. A brief speech about Roja, and he walked away. The orchestra struck up again, with a delicate reinterpretation of ‘Kaadhal Rojave’, with ARR regular Naveen on the solo flute. It was at this point I realized this was going to be much, much more than a regular concert.

Chances were high that something like this would suck. You know why? Because orchestral reinterpretations fall into two categories – gimmicky or wannabe. An outfit like Apocalyptica, once the novelty of hearing METALLICA-ON-CELLO-WOO-HOO wears off, is just a bunch of celloists scraping on their instruments as hard as possible to make them sound like badass Les Pauls. Off the top of my head, the only orchestral version I loved whole-heartedly, without coming back to it some time later and going ‘wha-huh, I enjoyed that?’ was Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra.  And please don’t say S&M. No, it does not hold up. Matt Dunkley, who was the conductor and arranger for the concert, has apparently worked with ARR since forever.

The choice of songs was superb. These were the underrated gems, the pieces that do not make it to your top 10 ARR lists. ‘Ayo Re Sakhi’ from Water, (which was nearly ruined by the female vocalist, a lady named Amrita. I will get to her in a minute) , pieces from Couples Retreat and 127 Hours.  ‘Mausam & Escape’ from Slumdog Millionaire was a frenzied piano/sitar duet, with sitarist Asad Khan joining Rahman on the keys, and a very unexpected choice for that soundtrack. The predictable inclusions – the theme from Warriors of Heaven and Earth and ‘Once Upon A Time in India’ from Lagaan, the Bombay theme. The most unpredictable one was a suite from The Rising, otherwise known as Mangal Pandey. I have to admit that the piece made me itch to go and revisit the OST, though I am not courageous enough to consider watching the film again. (Shudder!)

The one piece I could not recognize at all was ‘Changing Seasons’. Was it from Raavan? I have absolutely no clue, because my post-2009 ARRfu is weak. I do not remember seeing it anywhere before, even on promos.

The low points –

  • Almost no connection between the content of the video clips and the piece being conducted at the moment. Imagine watching an action sequence with a romantic theme playing in the background, and you will understand what I mean.
  • The multiple anti-British themes (and their corresponding videos) got a little tedious. Thankfully, no pieces from Bose: The Forgotten Hero.
  • The choice of Jai Ho’ as the closing song. While I get it, it’s the most recognized Rahman song in Hollywoodland, familiar enough for even the random drunk woman sitting next to me to wake up and cheer. But you have a Philharmonic orchestra and start off with programmed beats and a bunch of under-trained vocalists to substitute for Sukhwinder Singh’s power-packed vocals. Seriously?
  • The terrible, terrible female vocalist, who had no business sharing a stage with the Man, or anywhere near a microphone. She sounded nervous at first, a little out of breath, when singing the Water song, but one can only forgive so much. Her voice was grating enough to suck away all the joy out of ‘Jai Ho’. I missed you, Tanvi Shah. You may be the only Indian woman who can say ‘Salut, baila baila!’ without making me giggle.

And now to wait for an official CD release.