Written by Keshav Pandya
A.R. Rahman, ‘The Intimate Concert’ at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
After listening to A.R. Rahman’s evergreen songs from his countless and flawless albums, it is every fan’s dream to go to a Rahman concert.
On May 27, ‘The Mozart of Madras,’ the name given to Rahman by the TIME magazine, came to the NJPAC in Newark, New Jersey, as part of his Intimate Concert tour in North America after five years.
Having already watched the two-time Academy Award-winner live five years ago with his stellar performances, I felt it wouldn’t be anything different from his previous concert. But just like Rahman does with every new album, he proved me wrong, by giving a show to remember for all fans of music.
At a point, Rahman even innocently remarked to those fans who wanted only Hindi songs saying: “This is a music concert. I love all of you, don’t worry.”
Being an ‘intimate concert’ the environment felt cozy and yet grand.
Singing his Sufi favorite ‘Arziyan’ from the film Delhi-6, for which he gave one of his most experimental albums of the recent years, Rahman started off the concert with a prayer.
Thereafter, all was history.
Rahman and his young, talented band took us down memory lane with nostalgic songs like Choti si Asha, from the film Roja, which TIME Magazine calls “One of the 10 Best Soundtracks of All Time,” and ‘Dil Se’ from the film of the same name.
Rahman took the crowd on a journey through the many genres he has mastered, but also his years of technical and technological prowess.
Bringing reggae, jazz, and even hard rock from songs like ‘Tu Bole Mein Boloon,’ and ‘Nadaan Parinde,’ Rahman and his band stole the show with an incredible fusion simply with a bass, violin, drum set, and Rahman on the piano.
Jonita Gandhi, a fresh voice in the industry, showed the crowd who she really was: a singer who can bring the serenity of an opera, the aalaps of Indian classical, and also the pop and rap in songs like ‘Jiya Re.’
Playing the piano, keyboard and even an accordion, Rahman later showed off a new virtual instrument: a hand-worn sensor, which was played seemingly through notes in the air. It was a treat for the music-lovers as they watched the drummer jump on the floor, and Rahman play notes in thin air to create of the favorite songs.
Rahman was also fearless to sing his first Punjabi song, ‘Patakha Guddi,’ a fast-paced fusion of folk and rock.
Rahman’s journey got us jumping during the catchy bits of ‘O Humdum,’ grooving with the upbeat percussions, analyzing the orchestrations, and dancing at the finale with the obvious choice, Jai Ho, the Grammy and Academy Award winning song from Slumdog Millionaire.
With their fists up high at the end, Rahman and his band got the crowd up on their feet saluting Rahman for his momentous 23 years in the world of music.
The concert was more than memorable. It was intimate and yet somehow epic.
Asking a music fan how good a Rahman concert was is like asking a mouse how high the mountain top is: “too high.”
My answer: too good.