It was the year 2005 when I came to the US to do my masters. ARR then had decided to come to Bangalore about two months after I came here. The depression of not seeing the God of Indian music perform live in Palace Grounds, Bangalore had hit me hard. Two years hence, I came to know that he was performing live in Nassau Coliseum, New York City. I was dead sure that I was not missing the show for anything in the world this time. I was in Rolla at the time I came to know of his performance and I was coming to Boston after a month, but I knew that I was making the trip from Boston to NY exclusively for ARR. Almost every friend of mine knows how fanatical I am about ARR. I just had to call Shubhika who is in NJ, Shubhika, Do you know something? ARR is performing live in NY on June 16. She replies, Yeah, Of course. I have already got the tickets for both of us. Do you think I don't know about it?
The drive from NJ to Long Island need not be written about at all. The traffic was moving at a snail's pace, and it was frustrating to force your way at a speed of 10 miles per hour. The travel took us about three hours and we reached the venue in the nick of time. Not that the show started on time, but we didn't want to miss even a bit. The anticipation was just building. It is not everyday that you get a chance to watch your favourite music composer perform live on stage. As ARR and his troupe stepped on to the stage, the cheers and applause from the 10,000 odd crowd would surely have elevated him to a Godly status. Chitra, one of my favourite singers, started the proceedings with the popular orchestra Jaage Hain from the movie, Guru, and was backed superbly by ARR with a resoundingly high pitched vocal (only he can do that at such a high pitch). This was followed by the song Khalbali from the most popular movie of the year 2005, Rang De Basanti. Hariharan and Sadhana Sargam then took over for the Roja track. Though SPB was not there in the troupe, Hariharan filled his place for the Roja Janeman song to a nicety. Sadhana Sargam's humming was just brilliant to say the least. But the highlights of the day were Chaiyya Chaiyya by Sukhwinder Singh, Rang De Basanti title track sung by an unknown entity Aslam Khan (I am sure it is a matter of time before he gets to be a household name - Another new pick from ARR) and of course the solo compositions that ARR is so good at. Dil Se Re was totally a consummating experience backed by New York Nagaram, Humma Humma and Pray for me brother. The best part about this track was that the whole coliseum was filled with flashing mobile phones. What a feeling! Neeti Mohan, a new find I guess, was just too brilliant (even her looks!!). Her Mayya Mayya from Guru was rendered brilliantly.
The whole point about the concert was to see the man in person. Being an ardent fan of ARR, I couldn't have asked for anything better than to see the maestro compose his musical hits live. The feeling of euphoria can just not be put in words. Having grown up listening to some of the all time greatest hits, it was wonderful to see him churn out the same in almost identical fashion. It was also fun to see the auditorium erupt in joy when he came up with the soundtracks from the movie Sivaji. The whole auditorium was on its feet when chaiyya chaiyya, rang de basanti and humma humma were played. The best of course was reserved for the last. Vande Mataram from ARR just reverberated the stands with a patriotic fervour like never before. It is just enough to hear that song on an audio system and get inspired, but to see and hear him perform the song live will be one of the best moments in my life. I can just let the adjectives take over now. That moment can just not be captured in words. It was a perfect concert ending with a typical ARR signature in style.
The thrill and euphoria associated with such events are bound to last for a lifetime. This was my first ever concert and I am glad that I was witness to see one of the best personalities of my era in person. There are some people who get that unbelieveable feeling instilled within you. ARR definitely falls in that bracket as far as I am concerned. It was a delight and a privilege to share the same roof with the genius atleast for a couple of hours. The music was ethereal and the effect everlasting. The thrill and joy in our faces will be etched in our minds forever.