When was the last time you visited an open-air concert? That too in Bangladesh! Tuesday, 24 December, Christmas Eve, was a night to remember. It seemed like Christmas has come earlier this year, especially for rock-fans who were gifted with Artcellism – the 20-year celebration of Artcell, an unstoppable journey which we were a part of.
Yesterday's chilling wintry evening at the Expo Zone of International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB) saw thousands of people gather for the night ready to be a part of the progressive rock band's celebration that has entertained a throng of audience for two decades.
The concert kicked off at 6.00pm as fireworks went up in the sky. With the stage being lit up, fans started to swarm in front of the stage with a single chant on their lips – Artcell, Artcell, Artcell!
The stage was unlike any other ever seen in any other concerts in Bangladesh. Seven rectangular LED screens set up vertically, with the drums being staged on a separate platform above the main stage. For metal fans, this was a stage straight out of a Metallica concert – Berlin, Gothenburg, Amsterdam or Trondheim, take your pick.
The chant was put on hold as the LED screens on the stage lit up to display a slideshow of pictures encompassing the band's journey over the last two decades. As the presentation ended, George Lincoln D'Costa, Saef Al Nazi Cezanne, Kazi Sazzadul Asheqeen Shaju and Kazi Faisal Ahmed came to the stage amid fanfare, opening the evening with Rahur Grash. The video accompanying the song magnified the thrill and anticipation.
Following Rahur Grash was Onno Shomoy – the title track from their debut album released in 2002, which is considered a stepping stone for the progressive metal music scene in Bangladesh. But in reality, the picture is much larger as the album is a tribute to the band's late lyricist Rupok, whose life was cut short the same year due to cerebral malaria.
Trainwreck, Unmaad, Naïve and Crunch were next in line to pay their tributes to the band that showed them the path to immortality. Each covered one of Artcell's monumental songs encompassing their own signature styles.
Trainwreck, who held the flag of Bangladesh at Wacken Open Air earlier this year, wreaked havoc on the stage by covering Gontobbohin with a death-metal touch, the audience lost themselves in the powerful waves of guitar riffs and drum beats that followed. Crunch, also with their full line-up, covered Shohid Shoroni.
Before experiencing fame and glory, Artcell back in the day was an underground band regularly playing at the Russian Cultural Centre in Dhaka. Their roots that extended from the underground rock music scene were probably the reason why other underground bands that followed their footsteps, were rightfully prioritized in the concert.
With the guest bands wrapped up their tributes, it was time for the night's host to pay an homage of their own to the legends without whom this world of symphony and music would have been left incomplete.
Outcame the four maestros with their own rendition of covers of Rockstrata, LRB, Aurthohin and Warfaze. Nevertheless, the imagination of the crowd were rocked when Artcell covered Miles' Neela.
Miles, one of the pioneering bands of our music industry, coincidentally were celebrating their 40 year anniversary at Hall-3 of ICCB on the same night. Earlier, Miles have asked fans to send them recording of the song Neela from which the band would select three lucky individuals to sing alongside them on stage.
So, as Artcell started playing the chords of Neela, the whole Expo Zone erupted with cheers as the band gave their own live audition for Miles.
As the concert slowly climbed towards climax, Rafa, DRockstar Shuvo and acclaimed pianist Romel Ali paid tribute to Artcell with their covers of Apshori, Rupok (Ekti Gaan) and Obosh Onuvutir Deyal.
On the side screens, a short video of Bakhtiar Hossain from Bay of Bengal surfaced, where he was talking about the importance of Artcell as a band and their music in his life as a musician. This was followed by a snippet of Bakhtiar playing a flute cover of Oniket Prantor. Just as the snippet ended, the Bay of Bengal frontman was on stage ready to blow his flute to Oniket Prantor – the song that has wooed musicians and enthusiasts alike for two decades .
Marking the very end of the grand celebration, Artcell took over the stage one last time and sang Chile Kothar Shepai as fireworks flared up the night sky. The performance was, till date, the very best the band has ever performed.
Cezanne was a man possessed, whose fingers were simply doing magic on the strings of his bass, while his friend Shaju was on fire, beating away his drums with all his might. Lincoln was at the top of his voice, with eyes shut and fingers busily fiddling away on the guitar. And Faisal! He was simply seducing the crowd. Each of his chords were an invitation for the new journey the band was about to make towards the new decade.
The audience cheered, some smiled, some cried, while some were in total awe as the curtains of this monumental night were being drawn close. Everyone who attended this historic concert left the premises with a heart full of euphoria and experience that can be cherished until the next decade of Artcell is celebrated.