Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A day I'll never forget - Part 4


As I alighted the auto to get back to Binny's home I wondered all the things I could tell my folks back at Chennai about visiting J.P. I was sure I would blow their minds. I even wondered how the Uriah Heep concert that evening would compare to the experience I just had at my school principal's place. The auto journey lasted less than 15 minutes. Only when I paid the auto guy on my return trip did I realise that the guy who took me to Promenate Road that morning had charged me double and that too without using the meter, a rare thing in Bangalore.

Binny's son Prahlad had returned from his day care centre. If only I had more energy I would have played with him all afternoon till I left for the concert. But I was mentally and physically drained out. Yet the little one was just too adorable to be left alone. The lunch was a feast. I stayed away from fried food. I thanked Binny's mother-in-law for everything. Afterwards I was so tired I tried hard to stay awake. I then walked a big stretch to inflate the plastic water tub I had got for Prahlad but I wasn't successful. I only got more tired in the process. I tried my best to give the little quick learner company. As I dozed off I could still hear him talking all kinds of things around the bed. It was so cute.

When I woke up at around 5.00 P.M the little one was still awake. Binny's mother-in-law had tea and goodies ready. I bit into some delicious stuff and was trying to remember the recipe to tell Jaya back at home to make them, some kind of sweet dosa rolls. I called Binny and it was sad to know he wouldn't make it. But he promised that if he ever got the chance he would meet me at Palace Grounds.

I arrived at Palace Grounds almost one and a half hours early. What a pleasure to take the auto in Bangalore and Kerala after the rip-off's that take place in Chennai. (Guys, it's worse in the temple city of Chidambaram). About a dozen or so people had turned up. I tried picking a conversation with one of the co-ordinators of the event and he even told me I could meet members of the band if I checked out the backstage. "Can today really be that wonderful", I asked myself. I did walk to the mammoth temporary shelter where the band was resting but the co-ord. there amidst tight seurity refused entry politely. I retreated to the entrance. The crowd seemed to grow by only a trickle. There were two entrances and a small queue was forming at one of them. After some more boring moments I decided to join the growing queue. I took opportunity to talk to one of the guys standing just behind me in the queue and we ended staying together till the end of the concert. Yogesh (Naresh, sorry if I got the name wrong) was a like-minded, rock fan from the same age group and like me had left his wife and child to watch the concert alone. In fact it wasn't a surprise that fans of Uriah Heep would be in this age group. But unlike me he had been to the JethroTull concert too. I had been to Tull's concert in Chennai(then Madras) in 1991 and one was enough. The waiting outside was getting impatient. Finally as we were let inside it was almost dark. What surprised me was the poor turnout. Hardly 2000 or even less and maybe a bit more by the end of the show. Bangalore didn't know what they had missed. We could go right up to the tip of the stage but decided to stay reasonably behind to enjoy the music.

Some half an hour behind schedule Uriah Heep took to the stage. Some vocal tune played in the background. The crowd cheered esctatically.

For the next hour and 45 minutes, with an almost non-stop gig Heep left all of us spell bound with a brilliant performance. Heep played tight and neat. No improvisations or solo's but there was hardly a moment that was boring or tiring. No wonder they are such a great live act even to this day.

"One of the greatest concerts I have ever been to", I heard the guy behind me say that to his friends. "Couldn't have said it better", I told myself. Only the band Bread's concert in Singapore that I had been to with my brother and sister in 1997 could beat Uriah Heep's concert in Bangalore that night. It's a pity that after JethroTull's concert at I.I.M Bangalore on the previous Friday and Bryan Adams concert on Sunday, just about 3000 or may be just 2000 might have turned up on Wednesday for Uriah Heep. But the fans who came for the concert got their money's worth and more.

Bernie Shaw on vocals kept cheering, talking and smiling to the crowd ensuring the tempo stayed up and that there was never a dull moment. The only other person in the band that could beat Bernie's smile was guitarist Mick Box, the only original member from Uriah Heep's inception. With his shy smile and awesome riffs Mick's onstage stance and presence is unforgettable. For both Bernie and keyboard player Phil Lanzon it was their first trip to India. Bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Lee Kerslake had been here, as mentioned by Bernie, "...22 years ago..." The current line up have been together since 1986.

First came the new songs. They weren't bad. Then came "Free Me" their big hit and this was the first song to really shake the crowd. "Free Me!", the crowd joined in.
A couple of more new and not so old songs followed. To relax a bit an acoustic number with Phil on the keys also followed.

Then Bernie took time to introduce Mick to the crowd. Mick took the limelight and started the chords of "Gypsy". I screamed my lungs out! Being an audiophile I only wished Mick's guitar could have been a bit more louder. "Gypsy" was not studio perfect but it was performed well. "Gypsy" was followed by the classics, "The Wizard" and "July Morning" much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd who seemed to join in whenever Bernie motioned to them to do so. I screamed yet again when Heep started one of their very big songs "Take a Look at yourself". The only downer was the way they ended the song. The original is a must-listen for anyone who listens to rock. The ending is simply an overkill. Donno if it was studio work, but certainly Heep is capable of playing such stuff.

The band took a break saying, "Goodbye" only to come back to a waiting crowd screaming "Easy Living" (of course they were going to be back on stage). And what did they play? "Easy Living" of course. I though it was the end. "You want more music?" screamed Bernie and Mick started playing his acoustic guitar and Uriah Heep were performing "Lady in Black". I couldn't believe it. For the next 5 or more minutes Bernie gave a vocal training class for the entire crowd with the song. Gesturing and singing he conducted the crowd like a master musician. People who sang, did it with their lungs out. What a finale for the show. I couldn't believe the concert came to an end with the same song that I had begun writing about on the blog about Uriah Heep some few posts ago. My voice had changed with all that screaming and singing.

Binny was waiting outside. So sad he was not able to be with me at the concert. After introducing my new friend from the concert we left for home. To the inquisitive Binny I start narrating things from the concert....


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