Gig Review: Youtube virgins, middle-aged moms and college kids rocked out to Vengaboys
Over a 1000 fans showed up to root for the Dutch pop group in Mumbai
May 8th, Phoenix Marketcity, Mumbai: One of biggest attractions of the mall in the Central suburbs of Mumbai, where Dutch pop band Vengaboys performed recently, is human bowling. Similar to zorbing, the experience involves rolling around in a transparent, inflatable ball inside a space in the mall called Happy Planet. On Friday evening, a crowd of excitable young [as young as two], middle-aged and senior citizens found another happy space with the Vengaboys on the “Rocket To Uranus,” among other songs. Of course, some of them completely missed the tawdry double entendre, but that’s the whole fun of the party that the Vengaboys brought to town.
Let us start with a Vengaboys fan in his early Sixties who has never heard of YouTube or VH1 [I checked]. He was all pop-eyed watching video clips of concert performances by Simon & Garfunkel and Mr Big – the perfect prelude to the Vengaboys according to the show’s organizers – which were played on a large LED screen. When a clip of “Burning Love” played on the screen, he went, “Wow! Elvis Presley.” In the same impassioned tone, he cried out during the middle of the Vengaboys set, “Give Brazil number. Give it.” Of course, his voice may have been drowned out by some 1,000 odd fans (organizers claimed that over 3,000 people attended the show) mostly in their Twenties who had sung along to most of the eight hits that the Vengaboys have to their name.
All of this euphoria may have made perfect sense when the band toured India some 14 years ago. They were in their prime and Yorick Bakker, a dolphin trainer by profession who had been recruited in the group, was still a part of the band. While there are discrepancies on which member may have been the dolphin trainer, let’s just say that the idea of having him on stage held a definite appeal. To animal activists and metalheads.
Some metal fans made it to the show in Mumbai with the sole intention of trolling the Nineties Billboard charting band. A metalhead told me at the show, “This is the first gig where I’ve seen small kids, old uncles and metalheads.” Since I didn’t fall into any of the categories, I tried a polite smile and wore a look of a patient being wheeled into surgery. The Vengaboys were bringing back some disconcerting memories of an afternoon discotheque in Chennai with a bunch of girls singing to each other, “Boom, boom, boom, boom/I want you in my room/Let’s spend the night together.” Why these lyrics appeal to several generations of Indian kids is an anthropological study on its own.
A woman in her mid Twenties tells me at the gig that “Boom Boom Boom” was a top pick at singing competitions when she was in class five. Did you know what the song was all about, I ask. “No, but all of us sang it I remember,” she says cheerfully. I see another 20-something trying to scramble up front only to stopped by the Jimmy Jib operator, who has marked off some space in front of the stage to give him room to move. “My mom is in the front,” she pleads with the operator, who has had to tackle several members of the audience, who want to get a closer look at the Vengaboys.
The crowd cheered so loudly at one point and I wasn’t sure what they saw in the Drab Four. One looked like a cut-price Captain America, another was a human Barbie, the third: Scary Spice’s big cousin and the fourth in a sequined body suit looked ready for some cowboy porn. Plus, it seemed like they were lip syncing to a backing track. “But they have so much energy even now,” defended the “Boom Boom Boom” fan. Indeed, every song looked like an aerobics class.
Kim Sasabone aka Scary Spice doppelganger mopped her face as she spoke to the crowd between songs, “I love all of you. I think I’m going to cry now.” She shouldn’t be surprised at the turnout or the crowd’s response. Nostalgia is a magic drug that cures all.
The Vengaboys perform at Phoenix Marketcity in Chennai on May 9th. Buy tickets here