Haze Blues & Jazz Bar
[Three and a half stars]
Soulmate’s twice-monthly (at least) appearances at South Delhi’s Haze Blues & Jazz Bar are usually guaranteed dancing, cheering crowds and this gig was no exception. Broken up as usual into two sets, the first half of the evening belonged mostly to lead guitarist Rudy Wallang, who ripped his Greg Bennett for all the mojo it would give him. John Mayall’s ”˜Nature’s Disappearing’ got the special treatment just before the break with Wallang drawing out strange low tones from the loud semi-acoustic before letting loose a 10-minute lashing. Expanded in February to include a full-time rhythm guitar and playing now with Delhi-based drummer Adhiraj Mustafi, the backing section sounds like a thick river throughout, giving both Wallang and LV Tipriti Kharbangar aka Trips (who adds a rhythm guitar to the mix as well) ample space to explore their improvs. As is customary, there are shouts in the break for ”˜Shillong’ (a complex folksy jam from the band’s first disc). And as is customary, these are ignored. “We play this song quite often with our session drummer Sam Shullai,” Kharbangar offered when asked about the song. “We can’t play it with Mustafi because we don’t get to spend enough time together to work it out and it’s not a song you want to take chances with.” So the second set begins, with a jam and with Wallang on his sharp-sounding 20-year-old Squier Telecaster. This set belongs more to the vocalist, especially on a suitably swinged-out version of Van Morrison’s ”˜Moondance’ and a rousing rendition of crowd-favourite Sam Cooke’s ”˜A Change is Gonna Come.’ Wallang does get his chops in though, getting loud whoops from the rapt attendees as he sings and plays SRV’s ”˜Pride and Joy.’ It might be the typical smoky bar atmosphere at the aptly-named venue that suits the blues (though with the ventilation situation, Ashtray won’t be a bad name either) or the average Punjabi’s love for long hell-raising solos, but there’s something very right about Soulmate’s regular spot at Haze. Most likely it’s the fact that between Wallang and Kharbangar, it’s hard not to see that you’re probably listening to the best electric Blues you’re going to get anywhere in this country.