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Rabbi’s Back in Form

March 14th, Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai – Rabbi went on to prove why he’s not ready to be written off just yet!

Lalitha Suhasini Mar 15, 2012
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Rabbi performing at Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai. Photo: Tej Balachandar

Rabbi Shergill March 14th,  Hard Rock Café, Mumbai: After watching Rabbi straining to keep his vocals together for his most famous hit “Bulla Ki Jaana” at the South Mumbai music club Blue Frog last year, we were unsure how he’d pull off an entire concert to launch his latest album III. But after an ill-informed opening speech where Rabbi said that the Indian indie scene has been at its lowest ebb during the last five years (Indian independent music has been booming since 2006) and Universal Music label head Devraj Sanyal said “Ganga is the new Bulla” (“Ganga” from Rabbi’s new album is nothing like the incendiary, anthemic “Bulla Ki Jaana”), Rabbi went on to prove why he’s not ready to be written off just yet.

The set had been judiciously compiled, sticking to hits such as “Gill Te Guitar,” “Bilqis” and “Karachi Valiye” from his previous albums, and just three songs from his new album including “Ganga,” “Aadhi Kranti” and “Tu Hi.”

The singer opened the gig with the Punjabi folk song “Jugni” from his eponymous first album. “Jugni” has a melancholic brilliance that Rabbi’s expansive voice did full justice to despite the microphone that refused to stand in place. If only the accompanying band had shown more restraint instead of drowning the vocals, the gig would have been a great nostalgia ride. This was only clearer when Rabbi went solo on “Chhalla,” from his second album, with just his electric guitar for accompaniment making it the gig’s standout performance.

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“Tere Bin,” which had added heft because the singer had composed it for the soundtrack of the Bollywood film Delhi Heights (2007), was the only track where the belligerent dhol fit in. Oblivious to the technicalities, the audience that included middle-aged businessmen whose idea of a joke was screaming for “Chammak Challo” and college kids who hung onto every word that Rabbi uttered, lapped it all up. The deafening cheers were unsurprisingly reserved for “Bulla Ki Jaana” and by the end of the gig, we were sure that Hard Rock Café’s floorboards needed to be replaced despite the fact that the show had a dismal turnout.

Hard Rock Café would do well to promote its shows better and work on its sound set-up that unfailingly lets audiences down. Adding to sound woes, the entire area next to the bar was converted into a VIP area as opposed to the upper deck next to the stage above the bar being usually reserved for special guests. For an entry fee of Rs 500 (excluding the cover charge of Rs 250), the least HRC could assure was better sound.

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