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Vasuda Sharma Farewell Tour at The Blue Frog, Mumbai

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As I made my way to the Blue Frog on Sunday evening, I was clearly still recovering from the effects of the power-packed previous night at B69. It was the second leg of Vasuda Sharma’s farewell tour that I was headed for and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, given that I’d never watched Vasuda live in concert before, and that her initial claim to fame was being a part of the group Aasma, a product of Channel V’s ‘Pop Stars’ project. However, her more recent foray as an independent artist, combined with the stellar lineup of guest artists and supporting band for the night, had certainly roused my curiosity.

Admittedly, I’ve had my reservations in the past about the Indipop genre and the whole ‘Popstars’ concept in general, but I decided not to let any of that cloud my perception of today’s event. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the gig did in fact begin punctually at 9:30, precisely as I was informed.

Vasuda looked great as she took the stage along with her supporting band for the evening, and was greeted warmly by the crowd. There was already a fairly decent turnout, and I was quite sure that it would increase as the night went on. Accompanying her was Vinayak Pol on drums, Denzil Mathias and Alex Rintu on guitar, Crosby Fernandes on bass, and Nigel Rajaratnam on keyboards.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries with the audience, Vasuda kicked off the set with two very well composed originals, followed by a cover of Maroon 5’s ‘This Love‘. Her voice had a pleasant tone and she clearly possessed superb vocal control.

The first of the guest artists was Parsheen Irani, who came up on stage to join Vasuda for an upbeat cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel‘. This was followed by a cover of ‘Never Really Loved You Anyway’, originally by The Corrs, along with Geetanjali More and violinist Yogesh.

The crowd was now well and truly in the groove, and were clearly enjoying themselves. Vasuda’s fellow Aasma singer Neeti Mohan then joined her to do a cover of The Dixie Chicks’ ‘Ready To Run‘, getting the country feel spot on with the inclusion of the violin and with Nigel playing the flute.

Sangeet Haldipur, also of Aasma fame, was the next guest artist, and showed some incredible piano skills on a soulful solo that was accompanied only by Vasuda and Nigel’s mellow backing vocals. The songs so far had been interspersed with each of the artists sharing a moment and saying a few kind words about Vasuda, contributing significantly to the feel-good vibe in the place.

It was the perfect time for the pace to pick up, and with charismatic guitarist Ravi Iyer joining in for a cover of the Joan Jett classic ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll‘, it certainly did. The next song, a rendition of Janis Joplin’s ‘Summertime‘, saw Vasuda demonstrate some exceptional vocals and an extended solo by Ravi Iyer, showing all of his skill and versatility, with Zain Calcuttawala stepping in to play the drums.

Keeping up the tempo was popular RJ and The Works’ vocalist Mihir Joshi. Dressed in a black suit, Mihir belted out an energetic cover of James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, and with the very talented Rhys D’Souza on saxophone, the entire ensemble sounded perfect. Rhys stayed on for the next song, an impressive rock n’ roll original by Vasuda called ‘All Night Long’, with the dynamic Jaspreet Singh on vocals.

The two originals that followed were for me definitely the highlight of the evening, with Sheldon D’Silva joining in on bass. The long instrumental interludes allowed each of the musicians a moment in the limelight, with some wonderful solos including an organ mode keyboard solo from Nigel, a guitar solo by Alex, and a show boarding extended bass solo by Sheldon, who completely blew the audience away with his brilliant creativity.

Vasuda paid tribute to Alanis Morisette with a dark rendition of ‘Uninvited‘, following which she was joined by the last member of Aasma, Jimmy Felix. The two of them sung a cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘In These Arms’, as Jimmy improvised on the chorus to say goodbye to Vasuda in his own unique way.

All four members of Aasma now got together on stage to sing their hit single ‘Tumse Hi Pyaar‘ and did a fine job of it. (I for one, was quite glad that it wasn’t the awful ‘Chandu ke Chacha’ that they’d decided on performing on The Blue Frog stage!). And finally, Vasuda invited all the guest artists on stage, as they went on to sing the INXS classic, ‘Life Is A Highway’, quite perfect for the occasion.

All in all a fine show, and there are a few points here that I’d really like to emphasize. The sound was absolutely brilliant. With an ever-changing lineup of musicians and instruments, never once was the sound imbalanced, and The Blue Frog certainly lived up to its reputation in this aspect. The organization was spot on. Again, with an ever-changing lineup including intermittent exchanges and tributes between artists, I’d imagine it to be a logistical nightmare. Kudos to the organizers and to Vasuda’s managers, Dream Makers Entertainment.

Finally, the music. The aspect of this gig that I was most impressed with was the quality of music, covers and originals alike. It’s probably not always easy playing a song or a set with a group of musicians that isn’t a regular band, but watching this lineup, you’d never know that. Kudos to Vasuda and the rest of the band for holding the show together over those two hours and I wish her all the best!

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