Concert Review: AR Rahman – Greatest Hits 2015 (London)

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When an Oscar-winning and legendary composer, singer and musical genius comes to your city to perform his greatest hits, it’s hard to stay away. AR Rahman did just that on the evening of 15th August, and it made an otherwise normal Indian Independence Day a special one for all those who were in the audience.

The O2 arena was almost packed to the brim with enthusiastic and die-hard Rahman fans and it was more than refreshing to hear the cheers and applause he and his accompanying acts received as they performed memorable hit after hit. Rahman has composed and sung in a range of South Indian languages as well as Hindi and the one thing that ensured that there was an absolute balance throughout the whole evening was the conscious attempt to cater to the Bollywood audience in the same way as a Tamil/South Indian fanbase. The cleverness came when (for example) Rahman and his team sang to the title track of ‘Saathiya’ (2002), starting off in Hindi and then changing to the same composition that Rahman did for ‘Alaipayuthey’ (2000) which was the Tamil original. This happened in quite a number of instances – ensuring that the majority of the audience knew the composition to be able to hum along even if the words were in a language they weren’t familiar with.

In terms of standout performances, Rahman, Javed Ali and a handful of male singers positioned themselves as if they were singing a qawali to give a beautiful and heart-touching performance of Kun Faaya Kun from 2012’s ‘Rockstar’ and then to Khwaja Mere Khwaja from ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ (2008). Other performances that were unforgettable by the maestro himself included Tere Bina from ‘Guru’ (2007) and Pataakha Guddi from last year’s ‘Highway’ to narrow down just a few.

Javed Ali was particularly effective in singing Jashn-e-Bahaara from ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ and also his part of Kun Faaya Kun was a treat to the ears. Neeti Mohan was also a high tempo highlight of the concert, often coming to the stage and changing the whole mood of the audience – she sang the title track of ‘Rangeela’ (1995) and Jiya Jiya Re Jiya from 2012’s ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ with great energy.

Jonita Gandhi was also a treat to hear live too as many would have been familiar with her online collaborations and youtube videos previously.

A special mention should go to all the other accompanying singers who made the concert phenomenal in their own right: Karthik, Haricharan Seshadri, Hriday Gattani, Shashaa Kiran Tirupati.

Photographs courtesy: Nicky Kelvin

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