With politics and Bollywood mixed into a rock show, I wasn't sure what to expect.
I love Coldplay but I’m not a fanatical fan. I would definitely not shell out 20 grand for this because I don’t have any black money, hell, I hardly have any white money. But I do love attending international rock shows. Which is why I had my doubts about attending the Bollywoodized and politicised Coldplay concert in the first place. But the line was drawn when I heard the event would be alcohol free (not to be mistaken with free alcohol). I don’t think I’ve attended any concerts being sober. For most concert-goers, alcohol is a prerequisite among other substances.
Happily sober with my partner
For this one, even though it was for a cause towards a better India in the coming years, you had to stay happy and hydrated on plain old H2O. So with some insistence from my partner, I sat down half heartedly to answer some quizzes, sign some petitions and tweet for some of the causes being crusaded by the Global Citizen Initiative for a chance to get some free tickets. I also went and filled a media accreditation form. Honestly, I’m still at a loss in understanding the ticket prices and the innumerable zones the venue had. The gold zone, silver zone, green zone, brown zone, yellow zone, pink zone and so on. In the end, I (thankfully) did not get the passes, which would’ve put me in the green (or yellow) zone. I’m glad as hell I didn’t, because, to borrow a joke from the folks at the East India Comedy, if the concert was happening at BKC, the green zone area was in Kurla. Not literally, but with an 80,000 strong crowd, you can imagine that unless you had a telescope, it would be better to catch the gig being streamed live on VH1 sitting at home.
Colplay on stage
However as luck would have it, the day before the concert I got access to a gold pass that meant I could be right in front. I still had my apprehensions because by then I came to know even Ananya Birla was having her debut performance there. Whoever said money can’t buy you happiness? I didn’t want to put myself through that ordeal surely.
Back in the days, it was simple. You tanked up, smoked up and went to watch the likes of Deep Purple or Roger Waters, drank more, sneakily smoked pot at the venue and returned home satisfied.
But Bollywood has been edging into Indie festivals off late. Stalwarts like A R Rahman or Amit Trivedi may fit in and can be exempted.
But I definitely didn’t want to see a Filmfare level performance by a Ranveer Singh and party dancing to Bajirao Mastani songs in between Jay Z and Coldplay. Talk about killing the vibe. Then there was the jingoism of the event by actors (Vivek Oberoi) and politicians (Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis) who prompted audiences to shout Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Jai Hind. And then came Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech that was streamed on the big screens. He was supposed to attend the concert but probably changed his plans in view of the current situation. I was curious how the audience would react. Were there any bhakts among us? Thankfully, Modi’s speech, where he quoted Bob Dylan and tried to connect with the youth with some jokes about Demonetisation, got a lukewarm response from where I was standing. This was towards the final moments before Coldplay was supposed to hit the stage. I mean, we had been standing in one spot for six hours already, while some people who’d reached around noon must’ve spent some 10 hours. Now that I think about it, I guess all the waiting at ATMs and banks was preparing me for this moment. But people started getting edgy because the PM’s speech went on a tad too long.
Jay Z walking down the ramp
Phew! Now let me get to the music. By the time I reached, American singer Demi Lovato had just finished her set. Also, performances by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Shraddha Kapoor and - I cannot stress this enough - Ananya Birla were over.
Multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale along with electro-duo Midival Punditz and singer Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy delivered a short but heavy duty performance that included an electronic rendition of U2’s "Bullet the Blue Skies".
Then came Farhan Akhtar and his band with their Rock On numbers along with a song for which Amitabh Bachchan did the vocal duties.
A R Rahman belting out his hits
The one and only A R Rahman, a true maestro who had given me countless hours of joy and inspiration during schooldays, had been on my bucket list, and luckily I could finally cross this off. He launched into his set with a wicked drum and bass instrumental, fuelled by a mental synthesizer groove that took some of the audience, especially the youth by surprise. "This is some next level shit, man!" I could hear someone say. Rahman was accompanied by drummer Ranjit Barot and his protégé, bassist Mohini Dey. For those who didn’t know child prodigy and bassist Dey, it was a shock when she trail blazed the audience with a blistering bass solo.
While Rahman belted some of his old hits such as "Humma Humma" and "Tu Hi Re" to the delighted crowd, the cool quotient turned up a notch when American rapper Jay Z took the stage with his Indian collaboration on Punjabi MC’s "Mundiya Tu Bachke Rahi" before launching into his chart busters like "99 Problems", "Run This Town" and "Empire State of Mind". He even made the 80,000 people switch on their phones and wave the lights, which made for some surreal moments and amazing photo ops.
A R Rahman and Chris Martin jamming on "Ma Tujhe Salam"
But the highlight was Chris Martin and his British group Coldplay. Naturally. Everybody there was waiting for that moment. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint. With their flowery and modest set-up, the four-piece band assaulted the audience for two hours performing all their hits with illustrious use of pyrotechnics, confetti showers, rampaging balloons and pretty much everything that makes a show rock. A bonafide rock show! They went the extra mile and even collaborated with Rahman to sing "Ma Tujhe Salam" where Martin actually sang the chorus.
When the balloons came flying
I was thirsty, hungry and sober throughout. A little bit of water that was being passed around was all one could get if you were close to the stage. But the energy of the musicians and the crowd, plus the mildly amusing words of the politicians was what kept me going. Of course, proximity to the stage was important for me to enjoy it sober. I would’ve been pissed off and left, if I was in the far away zones.
In the end, I never thought I’d enjoy a rock show sober. But I did. And cheers to that!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Mohan KK
Photographs by Mohan KK and Global Citizen India Festival