The day was hot and humid, but that was not going to stop anyone from missing the opportunity to watch A R Rahman live in concert at the 'Cricket Celebrates Mujib 100' at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
The evening was organised by Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) starring Miles, Momtaz Begum, and Oscar-winning musician A R Rahman.
The bronze ticket, priced at Tk 1,000, had gallery seats. The more expensive tiers of the ticket, the gold ticket priced at Tk5,000 and platinum priced at Tk10,000, would let you enter the stadium ground.
Miles took the stage and the show promptly came to life. They performed Chaad Tara, Neela, Dhiki Dhiki, Phiriye Dao and one of their newer originals.
The stage and setting were reminiscent of the popular Bengal Classical Music Festival and Folk Festival. The beautiful LED visualisations were captivating, and the sound mixing was on point, the lows felt deep with bright and sparkly highs.
You could feel the energy permeate the crowd from the start of the very first song. The audience went wild! They cheered, danced and sang along with the music. The cameras panned at the audience and brought big smiles to their faces. There was even a man dressed as a tiger dancing and singing his heart out.
Momtaz was as good as she has ever been, her vocal prowess undiminished even though she splits time between her art and politics. Her powerful voice echoed throughout the stadium, and her high energy performances of Morar Kolile, Nantu Ghotok, and Local Bus were exciting.
Minutes into the intermission after Momtaz's performance, people from the gallery broke out in jeers and laughter. It had started to rain!
The people on the ground, who had bought the expensive gold and platinum tickets, were drenched. Some used plastic covers and Styrofoam boxes to take shelter, some ran for cover but most held their chairs on top of their heads as makeshift umbrellas. The ones who managed to secure an umbrella, shared it with at least ten other people, almost resembled the Ancient Roman military's testudo shield wall formation, as they slowly moved to find better cover.
It had rained the day before, and the one before that as well. It was shocking to see how the organisers had not anticipated this. It had rained for half an hour, but the show came to a halt for three.
The LED screens and technical equipment suffered water damage and nothing happened for quite some time. Roadies worked to get the show up and running again, and what seemed like trashy euro techno played in the background as they worked. The momentum and energy set by the two opening acts were gone. People looked bored and frustrated from the long wait.
After about an hour of waiting, Momtaz got back up on stage two more times and performed the same songs as she did during her act. The encore performances just did not have the same weight as it did the first time around.
People were visibly angry, but that was only because they had nothing to do. It is almost baffling why the organisers did not copy the format from the tried and tested Bengal Classical Music Festivals and Folk Festivals where the audience could also walk around the stadium grounds, enjoy good food at the food courts, and browse around at the souvenir stalls.
You could eat at the stadium, but you were limited to basically high school cafeteria food sold at abnormally high prices: ice-cream, chips, pizza (which was more bread than pizza), and tehari.
The Final Act
The LEDs started working again at around 9:35 PM, and A R Rahman finally took the stage five minutes later. A R Rahman began his act with the song Jai Ho, and his performance was like everything I had hoped for. The song resonated throughout the crowd. The audience mustered up the energy to sing and dance again, but not with the same vigour as they did in the evening. They were tired.
The two screens, however, remained unfunctional during the first song, and you could barely see the dance routines and acrobatics on stage that accompanied the music. One of the screens came back online during the second song but it rarely ever focused on these dance routines. The choreography was undoubtedly an important part of the act but the scatter-brained camera never captured anything properly.
A R Rahman showed off his technical prowess with his vocals, piano, and harmonium. His instrumental solos, as he went back and forth with his saxophonist, was a true spectacle for our senses. He was also accompanied by Benny Dayal, Jonita Gandhi and Hariharan.
As I walked out of the venue, I was both physically and mentally exhausted. I was happy to see A R Rahman perform live on stage, but I was happier the minute I stepped out of the show.