Arthur J Pais in New York
A R Rahman, the only Indian movie composer with a star-power to send thousands of music lovers into foot-tapping ecstasy at live concerts, begins his newest round of North American and European tour with a performance at the Nassau Coliseum in New York on Friday.
The June 11 event will be followed by a concert at Atlantic City the next day. Rahman and his fellow artists including Hariharan, Javed Ali and Benny Dayal will continue performing in more than 16 cities including Chicago, Houston, Toronto and Vancouver, London and several other cities in Europe.
Called the "A R Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour," it is his first international tour after winning two Oscars and two Grammy awards for the score of the worldwide multiple Oscar winning hit, Slumdog Millionaire.
"We are using the words Journey Home (which is also the title of Rahman's stage hit in London, Bombay Dreams) because for nearly a year Rahman has been out of India, working in Hollywood and the UK," said the International promoter for the tour Deepak Gattani, who has organised over 100 Rahman concerts.
Included among them is a series of concerts in India that beckoned an unprecedented 100,000 music lovers in Kolkata a few years ago.
"I have always believed a concert is made enjoyable with dances and visuals accompanying them," Rahman, whose music from his latest film Raavan is leading the charts, said. "This time we have some of the best American technicians and stage managers helping us create a streamlined and exciting show."
A R Rahman begins his whirlwind journey homeImage: AR Rahman and Malachi
The creative director for the show Amy Tinkham who attended the April press conference in New York to announce the details, has promised "a theatrical experience that will blend new technologies with powerful dance arrangements and acrobatics."
Tinkham has created live concerts for many icons, including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey. "The concert will keep intact the heritage and traditions of India with a new modern presentation. The show will feature changing sets, large images on LED screens and a spectacular cast of musicians and dancers from across the globe."
Expect a parade of old and new melodies from Roja to Raavan, and from Jane Tu...Ya Jaane Na to the forthcoming mega budget Endhiran starring Aishwarya Rai and Rajnikanth. A significant number of nearly 20 songs will be performed by the maestro.
"A good thing about doing a concert once in two years or so is that I can offer a good mix of old and new songs," Rahman continued.
In between the music and dances, there will also be space for pure music, said Hariharan who apart from singing songs from Endhiran and Roja will also offer a medley of traditional and classical music as a tribute to some of the masters such as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan that Rahman admires.
Hariharan whose film career got a big push thanks to his patriotic Roja song has performed in many Rahman concerts. But he asserts that he has never seen such energy and intensity that he finds in the present concert at no time before.
He participated in over two weeks of intense rehearsals along with the dancers and musicians in DC.
"There cannot be anything but an extraordinarily energetic show," he added. Some of the items in the concert are choreographed by Rujta Vaidya who also was responsible for some of the dance movements at the Oscar ceremonies, a first for an Indian artist.
She was also the choreographer for the Britney Spears' Bollywood-inspired Me Against the Music concert last year.
A R Rahman begins his whirlwind journey home
At a time when concert promoters are hesitant to bring Bollywood stars to North America and the United Kingdom because of prohibitive costs, the faith the promoters of Rahman shows have in the Jai Ho concert is truly impressive.
Over a dozen promoters came to the New York press conference in April to greet Rahman and some of the creative team.
The event was also attended by over 100 journalists was organized by the public relations firm Anhad headed by former journalists Niraj Trivedi and Sulekh Suman. "The interest in this concert is unbelievable," Trivedi said.
Rahman's fan base expands tremendously with each passing year, he added.
Shishir Misra, who has bought the shows in New York, New Jersey and DC, says Rahman has as much of a star power as the highest paid and most popular of Bollywood artists. And unlike the stars who will appear for a few segments in a show, he is on the stage for most of the time.
The concert could easily become the highest grossing desi event in the past year; it is expected to gross several times more than the $6 million earned by the highest grossing Hindi film, 3 Idiots.
At the New York press conference, Gattani said in a taped video presentation that the concert "will be blend of East and West, from Bharatnatyam to pop and tap dance. The 2 hour 30 minute musical spectacle, the very soul of India can be experienced. From the myths of rural India to the colours of the festivities, the rhythm and beats of the urban culture, this musical concert will have it all."
He also pointed out that the concert is promoted as a "true road tour," and the talent consisting of 75 on seven 53-feet air trailers.
This is the road never taken by an Indian artist and if the concert lives up to the expectations, it might even go to a number of cities in India despite the forbidding cost.