Ghosts of gigs gone by. Were you at these epic concerts?
Lollapalooza is here. But how much have Indian concerts changed? Rewind with four gigs and someone who’s been in the audience, cheering, for decades
Michael Jackson, Mumbai, 1996
Almost everyone in attendance will agree that the Michael Jackson show in Mumbai is one of the best to have been held in India. The image of him coming out of a makeshift spaceship’s door is etched in one’s memory.
Fans had paid ₹5,000 to stand in front, or ₹15,000 for the VIP enclosure, from where Asha Bhosle watched with admiration. Others paid ₹2,500 or Rs, 1,500. Tickets were sold only through banks until four days before the event, and thereafter at the venue, Rhythm House and Indian Express Building.
The show was part of the HIStory World Tour. After opening performances by Sharon Prabhakar, Noble Savages and Bally Sagoo. MJ came on around 8 pm and performed for a good two hours and 40 minutes without a break. He did his famous ‘moonwalk’. Other on-stage attractions were an artificial battle tank and the guitar solo on Beat It. The set also included Billie Jean, Thriller, Off The Wall, Dangerous, Scream, You Are Not Alone, Stranger In Moscow, Black Or White or They Don’t Care About Us.
Some 35,000 people had the time of their lives, but for 15-year-old Piya Thakkar, it was even more special. MJ called her on stage for a quick dance. Wonder if she’s got over it.
Roger Waters, Bengaluru, 2002
Roger Waters, former vocalist, bassist and songwriter of Pink Floyd, played Bengaluru as part of his In The Flesh tour. The Udyan Express from Mumbai had an entire compartment filled with fans. Tickets ( ₹2,500, ₹1,500 and ₹900) were available at Planet M outlets in the big cities.
Waters’s 11-member entourage included guitarists Chester Kamen, Snowy White and Andy Fairweather Low, his son Harry Waters on keyboards, drummer Graham Broad and vocalist PP Arnold. There was no opening act. Waters began with In The Flesh and The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, before playing Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 and Mother, other gits and songs from his solo albums. The highlight, expectedly, was Comfortably Numb, and fans still remember the twin-guitar climax by Kamen and Low.
With 32 tonnes of equipment specially flown in a private jet, the show boasted of some great quadrophonic sound, audio and visual effects, and lavish video projections. Though the actual flying pig was used only at Waters’ 2007 show in Mumbai, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the 25,000 fans who saw him in Bengaluru.
Santana, Bengaluru, 2012
When he came down for shows in Bengaluru and Delhi-NCR, ace American guitarist Carlos Santana was catering to two kinds of audiences. The older lot was familiar with his electrifying Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock in 1969. The next generation loved his 1999 album Supernatural, which won nine Grammy awards.
Bhartiya City was a long drive out of Bengaluru. The 8,000 fans had to carry prints of online bookings to stand in a queue for tags, worth ₹2,500, and two vodka coupons. The tipplers smartly snatched coupons from the teetotalers, and were tipsy by the time opening act Indus Creed wrapped up.
Many people turned up in T-shirts displaying names of rock acts other than Santana. Santana began at 7 pm, and his band included vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas, drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionist Raul Rekow. Later, the guitarist’s wife Cindy Blackman joined on drums.
Most of the two-hour, 15-minute show was a nostalgia ride, with classics like Jingo, Guajira, Samba Pa Ti, Evil Ways and a version of jazz great John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Fans tripped on Smooth and Maria Maria. The gig had its lows too. Black Magic Woman, played live paled in comparison to the videos. Shockingly, Santana chopped off the classic ending of the instrumental Europa. Yet, people left in a great mood, only to find themselves waiting endlessly in a dusty parking lot at the chaotic exit point.
U2, Navi Mumbai, 2019
Mumbai wasn’t on the schedule of U2’s The Joshua Tree tour, which covered New Zealand, Australia and the Far East. But once India was added in, people trooped in to Mumbai from across the country.
Special trains had been arranged up to Nerul, the closest station. BookMyShow had sent tickets by courier. Fans, armed with smartphones posted selfies holding their passes. Those standing in front spent ₹8,000. Stadium seats cost between ₹10,000 and ₹14,000. From those seats, Bono looked like an ant. Those who paid ₹3,000 saw only the background screen.
After a few mood-builders like I Will Follow, New Year’s Day, Bad and Pride (In The Name Of Love), U2 presented an extract from John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance. They followed it up with the entire The Joshua Tree album, released in 1987. People pretended they knew all the songs.
An estimated 40,000 people attended the gig. There was a surprise when Noel Gallagher of Oasis joined U2 on Desire. However, AR Rahman’s appearance on the new song Ahimsa seemed horribly out of place. The finale – One from the 1991 album Achtung Baby – was perfect. Yet, for the prices, many fans expected more. Like at the Santana show, exiting the venue was a nightmare, as a huge traffic jam piled up on the highway. Maybe there are some lessons to be learnt for future megashows.
Narendra Kusnur has been covering music as a critic and a columnist for three decades.
From HT Brunch, January 28, 2023
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