The Bombay Rock Project, although being a new entrant into Mumbai’s music scene, comprises a line-up of musicians who are well established in their own right, each of whom plays for a number of city bands. The gig they were playing today was at a mall, and I didn’t really know what to expect from them in terms of music, or the venue’s sound setup.
It was a typically windy and rainy June evening in Vashi, as the band set themselves up in the Inorbit Mall compound, close to the entrance. The place was sheltered by an unusually psychedelic looking ceiling way above, and kept out most of the rain. There was a sparse crowd present, as you’d expect in a mall, most of who were either known to the band, or curious passers-by.
A quick chat with one of the band members told me that I was to expect covers of classic Bollywood songs, with a twist, and maybe a couple of English songs thrown in as well. This surprised me, given the kind of music that I’ve heard each of these musicians play before with other bands.
So finally after a long drawn out sound check, the band was good to go. On lead guitar was Sanju Aguiar of Devoid, on bass was Ishaan Krishna of The Hoodwink Circle, on drums was Agnnelo Picaardo of Dischordian, on keyboards and saxophone was Nigel Rajaratnam of Dischordian, and spearheading the project was The Works’ vocalist, Mihir Joshi.
The first song was an upbeat cover of the title track of the Amitabh Bacchan starrer, Don, and set the stage for an energetic set list. The next was a cover of ‘Janu Meri Jaan’, from the 1980 classic, Shaan. At this point, I must admit I didn’t quite know what to make of the band. It felt a little bit indulgent, and more like they were playing to the masses, and not to a more discerning audience.
The band seemed tight and the overall sound was fairly good, given the windy conditions and that the location was for all practical purposes, a driveway. Ishaan had broken the top string of his bass guitar at the end of the second song, but to everyone’s bewilderment, nonchalantly proceeded to continue without it.
The next one was a rather crowd-pleasing mash-up medley of ‘Summer of ’69’, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’, and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. The songs were blended together quite well, but essentially stayed true to the originals. This was followed by another two hindi covers of the songs ‘Dekha Na’ and ‘Jawani Janeman’. So far, I had no complaints about the performance itself, but given the set list, it felt a little like we were watching an Amitabh Bacchan tribute gig.
Things started picking up with the next song, an interesting jazz-like cover of ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ with a nice drum solo from Agnnelo and a piano solo by Nigel. Things got even more interesting with a reggae mash-up of John Mayer’s ‘Your Body Is A WonderLand’ and Lucky Ali’s ‘O Sanam’, scoring highly on the creativity scale.
The next two songs were covers of ‘Saara Zamaana’ and ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’, both of which had a distinct classic rock feel to them, and were followed by ‘Inteha Ho Gayi’ (yet again featuring the Big B) and was for me the best song so far, with Nigel switching to the saxophone towards the end.
Tossing in another English track, the band did an unusual take on the David Guetta house sensation, ‘Love Is Gone’, before moving back into hindi mode with a cover of the title track of the movie ‘Rock On’ as Mihir went into the crowd and got people to sing along with the chorus.
In response to the crowd’s request for another fast song, Mihir belted out ‘Dance Dance’, probably not my favourite of the evening, but there was a lot of energy in the performance, and some nice guitaring by Sanju. The list concluded with ‘Om Shanti Om’ and a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’.
The performance overall was very entertaining. Agnnelo was solid as ever on drums, Nigel was creative with his keyboard, Ishaan was quite flawless despite playing with only three strings, and Sanju’s guitar riffs were excellent. Mihir was clearly the life of the band and though his vocals were at times a little bit pitchy, more than made up for it with some incredible showmanship and stage presence.
I’ve always found it interesting to see the name of a band qualified with the word ‘Project’. It indicates a certain lack of pretence, a degree of experimentation, and to some extent, an organised approach, all of which, The Bombay Rock Project at first glance seemed to fulfill in fair measure.
The band appears to be well prepared to take on the music scene. Their costumes and logo look to be steps towards creating a solid identity. Their performance looked tight and well rehearsed, and the members appeared relaxed and were enjoying themselves. The musicianship was of excellent quality and had a balanced sound. All in all, they appear to be unabashedly, a hindi cover band, and clearly look to be taking the commercial route by introducing rock music to the masses.
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!