This weekend I was the lucky recipient of a trip to Chicago with my mother to see famed Indian composer A.R. Rahman in concert. While Rahman is no newcomer to any fan of Bollywood cinema, he gained world-wide fame for composing the soundtrack to the Academy-Award winning 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire. Chicago was the fourth stop on a 16 city world tour, and the city was ready, packing the Sears Centre for the event on Friday, June 18.
I instantly regretted the sushi I ate at a nearby Asian fusion restaurant when I discovered there was a delicious spread of Indian delicacies such as samosas and aloo gobi, which was available along with the standard concession fare like nachos and soft pretzels. Even with a relatively late start time (9 p.m.!) I was amazed at the range of ages represented in the audience. My mother and I were a predictable minority of Caucasian patrons, but I saw people my age, people my mother’s age, young children and elderly women that needed canes to walk into the arena, all there for A.R. Rahman.
Rahman’s show was created by Amy Tinkham, who has also worked with Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. The 2 1/2 hour show featured dancers, acrobats, break-dancers and a full band to dazzle the audience. I don’t think I have ever seen such an elaborate set for any concert. The multi-dimensional stage incorporated gorgeously vibrant background video, moving sets of stairs, hanging gold ornaments, and a crescent-shaped platform that jutted out from the main stage. With each new song, the set changed dramatically to reflect the mood of each song. It is quite possible that I saw every shade of purple alone, along with cerulean, vermilion, jade and tangerine.
Rahman was joined by several famous guests, including the Bollywood singers Hari Haran, Benny Dayal, Shweta Pandit, Javed Ali, Blaaze, and Neeti Muhan. The group numbers were by far some of the most memorable moments, including a group montage that celebrated classic Indian cinema. Michael Jackson’s influence was evident with a cover of “Black and White.”
Performing hits from several of his well-know films like Jodhaa Akbar, Rang De Basanti and Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman’s passion for his country and the gratitude for his success can be felt every time he opens his mouth to sing. “Humma” had many people dancing in the aisles and in their seats. Predictably, the monster hit “Jai Ho” was saved for the encore, which brought everyone to their feet, chanting “Jai Ho.” “The Journey Home” is a joyous celebration of Indian culture and music, and we should be incredibly grateful to A.R. Rahman for giving us the opportunity to enjoy his incredible music live.
For more information about the rest of the world tour, visit: http://www.arrahmanlive.com/concert/index.html