“Come away with me!” an overzealous fan yelled from one of the front rows — much to the amusement of Norah Jones, her band members, and the rest of the crowd during her concert at the Turf Club in Mahalaxmi, last Sunday. A gentle yet sturdy breeze ensured that the origami bird danglers suspended from the ceiling of the stage, waltzed along with Mumbai to the tunes of this memorable act. Music aficionados, in good spirits, buoyed with a relaxed Sunday vibe, couldn’t have asked for a better concert in a long, long time (read; open spaces, well-behaved crowds and hassle-free execution).
Well before sundown, the gates to this summer carnival-like event were opened to the public, and soon ti was obvious that the 4,000-5,000-odd were soaking in every moment of this experience. Apart from a decent spread of food and drink, kiosks selling knick-knacks, postcards, and promoting causes were doing brisk business.
An art installation along the stands was also getting enough eye-time. As one walked along the grounds, two stages and an eclectic line up ensured that the young, the old and the not-so-old were able to take their pick of entertainment.
The chilled out atmosphere was a far cry from memories one had of bone rushing concerts inside oversold venues or makeshift open-air grounds where one could barely stand on one foot let alone catch a fleeting glimpse or hear the performer in full flow. In fact, proceedings here were a breeze, sans any untoward incident. Full marks to Mumbai. And, as the curtain came down on the show, it truly was a refreshing departure in every sense.
It was with this thought that one had to jog the memory to think hard of the last time when an open-air live gig/event earned such a unanimous thumbs-up from the city’s space-starved folk. It wasn’t easy. Eventually, Cross Maidan came to mind, from recent memory.
The venue for the performing arts events of the Kala Ghoda Festival did manage to score high on most counts. After which, one couldn’t think up of any more venues. It’s no rocket science to figure that Mumbaiites are shortchanged (and how!) when it comes to open-air venues.
Gone were the days, in the 1970s, 80s and even 90s too, when Rang Bhavan and Brabourne Stadium would play host to the likes of big-ticket performers, dates would be blocked in advance, tickets were sold in a rush, and print ads did their best to keep all humming and head banging until D-Day. If we turn the clock back to an even earlier time, to the first half of the 20th century, bandstands at Apollo Bunder, Hanging Gardens and Bandra would bring in all age groups, where they would witness live bands play popular tunes of the time. Citizens had easy access to such evenings of music, community bonding and of course, great revelry.
These days, one hears of commendable efforts made by a handful of organisers who are working hard to recreate the magic of live band music at the Hanging Gardens or host more public events at the Cross Maidan and even at Bandra’s Mehboob Studios. We are sure that they’d be countless voices within the city who are in favour to provide more support and backing for live gigs at such venues that exude a welcoming vibe and a festive-like ambiance.
Barring the monsoon, Mumbai could certainly do well to take its music to open spaces, and give its music-loving public lots more to cheer about. This would spell great news not just for so many talented musicians and bands but also for interested folk who have to contend with insanely priced tickets, niche or members-only venues and less-than-competent line-ups. Mumbai surely deserves better. Let’s play it again, for the Maximum City.
— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY
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