Review of all

four UK 'New Shakti' gigs


Thu, 9 Oct 1997

written by One-Worder

Graham Crawford

grc@cybersurf.co.uk

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Part 1

I went to all 4 McL/Hussain shows, driving back & forth to Brum each night
... absolutely knackered ... but well worth it. I could write a small
tome on the week..amazing few days. I would call it 755! Thats the exact
number of miles I had to drive. Now I've got to count the cost of things,
but for me at present, it was a one-off event, that I'll never forget.

The Oldham concert was at an 800 seater venue (8th row seat), which greatly
reminded me of a school assembly hall. There were stage problems, with
feedback, particularly due to a mike fault. Here unlike the other shows they
did a lovely slow 'Lotus Feet' as part of the main set. The stage was
surrounded with colour spotlight-dappled curtains & the actual hall has the
most incredible, illuminated ceiling, not out of place at a Pink Floyd concert.
The lady droning away in the background was different to the RFH..met loads of
interesting folk, & a great night completely, apart from getting totally lost
in the center of Manchester!

The RFH, as you well know was a superb concert..the group seemed much more
intense than the rather 'relaxed' night before, with different improvs..in
fact John never repeated him-self through the tour, apart from basic
intros/sequence changes etc. If you taped it, you will understand my
consternation through most of the gig, which I never noticed at the time, at
the mass relay of audience sneezing & coughing ... everyone got the flu or
what! A superb set though don't you think! You might already know this,
but I found out later on tour that Zakir's tabla had broken at the Oslo gig
which preceded this UK tour. At this show Zakir hit a rhythm sequence that
he never quite matched on-any long solo in the enormously long piece that
closed the set, before the encore, called (phonetically), 'Muffi'. He seems
to get up to 4 rhythms at one time for a few seconds...... it just seems
humanly impossible to me! At this concert I sat next to, by chance, a guy
called Ian Carr, I overheard him talking about '84 shows in India & joined
in conversation with him. His brother is Mike Carr, off the Herbie Goins &
Emcee 5 sessions etc. He was telling me he (Ian) only writes now, mostly
lyrics, some music, & that he had played with McL as a quartet in '65 at the
Flamingo Club in London. This club at the time he tells me was a dirty
dingy place, crawling with pimps & prostitutes! Great times eh?-He played
most nights opposite the Georgie Fame Blue Flames, while he was in a group
called Nucleus (not the D.Power one, but he said Duffy was still a good pal
of his & he often saw him) ... God you never know who you're next to at a
show. 10th row seat.

I NICKED THE HALLS POSTER FROM THE FOYER! HA..NICE ONE

(Note from GRC - would this be the trumpeter Ian Carr of 'Ian Carr's
Nucleous', the one who has written a biography of Miles Davis...??)

Birmingham ... large venue, comparable to RFH, sound better though. The
group went from strength to strength..so together tonight unbelievable &
John played some amazing build-up solos laced with pure blues riffs..I loved
it. No encore tonight unfortunately, but a whizz of a concert.-..4th row
seat. Same lady as RFH tonight. Probably best show tonight, musically, but
RFH was cool too.

Southampton University ... what can I say..almost like a private
concert..lovely intimate venue ... they sqeezed in approx the grand total of
400 people maximum. This was a more gentler performance, yet for me the best
night of the tour from an enjoyment point of view. The interaction, due to
the size of the place (about 70' by 60') between audience & artists was
bliss..audience sat a few feet from the podium. The super thing about this
night was I was treated like some kind of celebrity by the Hall's
management, after I got there before anyone else & got talking about seeing
the whole tour..they helped me on the night, gave me the two enlarged
posters from the reception area..loads of programmes etc. It was so small
there that they set up 3 rows of seats on left & right of the artists
podium..approx 8 feet away. This is where I sat behind Vikku & John & had a
very different close-hand perspective of the show ... John's starting the
drone via midi, his weird slip-on shoes 'parked' not 5 feet from me ... his
eyes scanning the audience, especially towards me as beside me was a small
boy, who kept flaking out with tiredness or boredom onto my leg ... Zakir
commented tonight on the audience interplay which had inspired the group to
play ... a marvellous night.

........ after the gig. (Oh again tonight was the abridged 'Lotus Feet' as
an encore, although the backing Lady's instrument was laid out..she was not
present..Zakir played some tambourine..probably got another weird name, but
it was the same). I'm jumping about here, but before the gig, the manager
told the road crew about me & we engaged in conversation, one said he wished
there had been more dates, that he was just getting into it..on questioning
deeper he passed me over to a 'Nordic' sounding guy, who he said is 'John's
man'.. I asked him about the Oslo concert which surprised me..& also mainly
about the Heart Of Things.. would John be recording. He said it's done. An
album with the Heart Of Things ... it will be released sometime in October
according to him, but I guess sometimes these things get held up eh?

Other news.. Shankar & Garbarek had both been requested for the tour, which
they'd been putting off for years due to various individual commitments.
The tour was being recorded, at least the two big venues,
London/B.Ham..there is an intention for a live album! But this guy got a bit
cagey or reticent at some moments ... I felt I was imposing a little.
Anyway did you know by report that John has just very recently become the
proud father of a new baby boy. No wonder he looked so happy on this tour &
was so eager to get home after it. I noticed also this tour he had his
wedding ring back on. John re-commences his US schedule in November.
Europe is to come afterwards. (whenever). We were waiting outside for the
group to arrive..the train was late apparently & it was 90mins before the
gig..they'd stayed at the Hyatt Hotel next to the Symphony Hall last
night..If I'd have known I'd have given him a lift down, ha, ha. Stranger
things have happened!

As I was saying before I interrupted myseif.... after the gig the band
retreated to the dressing room..prep room, the door to which was feet from
me & each time members had made entrances/exits they & John virtually
brushed past me..you couldn't swing a cat in this place believe me. I was
literally gob-smacked & virtually in a trance all night, after the effort
this week I just relaxed there. Some folk were waiting by this door at the
end, including an Indian guy who wanted his 'Guru' to sign his bamboo flute
(bansuri). The manager let 4 people in at a time. After 2 lots he said
that's it, they want & have to get urgently to Heathrow Airport! A couple
of us pushed forward & said go on ask again, tell him I've followed him all
around..nice man..he got us in. I said it was wonderful music
& you've gotten stronger each night. John said we enjoyed it ... thank you for
coming..nice to see you..He & Zakir signed a copy of the Asian Circuit book
I was holding..I said thanks & that was it..I came out on cloud nine believe
me. I got it framed already..it's virtually a perfect copy of the one on
After The Rain note/cover slip! WOW. The icing on the cake.

Comments ... a lot of Asian folk at all gigs in good numbers apart from RFH,
which basically was the usual crowd coming out the woodwork. Group presented
with flowers only after Oldham & London gigs. Again (phonetically) the
opening Raga is 'Raga Kiruanil?

Now:- I taped all 4 concerts, but on returning home after the B.Ham show found
a loose wire in the condenser mike had been shorting mostly all night..what a
bummer! I failed on my home ground..can you believe it! I must get round to
hearing the tapes through in order to salvage what I can, but it seems like a
fews mins here & there.. I got Oldham & Southampton complete, & RFH
minus the intro Raga with HC/ZH.

(Note from GRC ; between us, Dave and myself have 3 out of 4 dates complete,
RFH being a combination of our efforts. Not a bad batting average........
RFH on (mainly) digital master, remainder on analogue)

Never mind, I have a tour in my memory to cherish forever!
At no venue was anyone checked at the door. I think S'Hampton was the
longest show at 149mins, but haven't really checked everything as yet - just
coming down to earth & theres other tapes to do ... I'm fairly sure looking
at S'Hampton's audience that no one else taped the last show, but you never
know.

Part 2a

Lotus Feet - long version from Oldham... I remember wincing at the poor
mikes on stage & feedback until soundies corrected them. Also the
'jabbering' in front of me at RFH... guys in front uttering insane
comments during the show.. one you can hear where the guy claims Ravi
Shankar to be the father of Zakir Hussain!

Part 2b

Symphony Hall, Birmingham is part of the wonderful canal-side development of
the International Convention Centre. The Hall is considered to have the best
acoustics in Europe! Which can be altered, as large parts of ceiling and walls
move to suit! Question. Anyone know who the white teenage girl was who was
seen leaning by the stage door at RFH when John was playing 'The'Wish'? Same
girl came out of the stage door at Southampton & sat next seat but one to me
for 'Muffi?', then departed through the door again just prior to the end of
the show! WHO WAS SHE?

(No soundcheck performances done at lst & last gigs, don't know about
middle two gigs ... probably now not!?')

........ feel free over internet business (GRC - i.e. posting these
accounts to one-word or PoF), no problem there. I would of course enjoy
seeing the results & any responses if at all possible (will do - GRC).

I keep re-listening to the first & last more intimate shows from the tour, as
opposed to the more 'intense' middle pair, & am progressively impressed at the
beauty of much of the music on these nights.

At Oldham it sounds as if they were still sorting out the link music to the
many sections of 'Muffi?' ..sounded a bit exploratory. Also at this gig,
although the performance sound was good & taped excellently, the stage PA
for the announcements was pretty dire & even though in the 8th row had to
strain to hear what was being said. Listening again, there was much humour
evident on this night, more so than the others ... with the bad mike popping
& finally blowing during the performance, H.C. just about to play his flute
& the mike being whipped away by a roadie & hurriedly relaced, caused a
laugh on stage... Zakir in great form, introducing Vikku, as someone with a
very long name.. which he duly pronounced including the full T.H. part,
which I won't begin to write here, & then ... we know simply as Vikku. ...
During a talk by Zakir again, a phone very audibly rang off stage ... which
he played on like a good stand-up comic..'the phone's ringing..', many
laughs again. That show had a very long interval, some people began to
leave before the end, I remember the faces of the artists looking a bit
aghast as they watched whilst still playing.. well it was approx. 15 to 20
mins past eleven that the show finished. Likewise some people arrived late
to take their places, much shuffling about during the most beautiful opening
Raga, which this night had a comparatively shortish solo intro. HC
introduced this this night, again the mike lowish,
& hard to hear, but it sounded as if it was by a different name to the one I
quoted as being said at Southampton, although to my uneducated ears,
basically the same piece with variations of course! Oldham Lady....sounded
like 'Lady Balufna??

Listening again to S'Hampton, I feel perhaps, the solo intro is 'Kiruani? &
the duet by another title? Maybe an official release would verify this?

Back to Oldham, as mentioned before, 'Lotus Feet' had the most heartfelt
performance in the main set..timed at approx. 15minutes long. Reminding me of
HC's false start above, the same occured at Birmingham, again to laughs, but
not through a mike problem, he just went to play & only a sqeak emitted ...
(saliva in the works?). At one point at B.Ham, during 'The Wish' I recall
John's plectrum slipped from his fingers & he fumbled trying to pick it up.
Each night at one point John caught his sleeve on the strings while keeping
time with his right arm during Vikku's solo.

The scene at S'Hampton, as before stated..a very small place ... steeply
sloping seating arrangement down to the stage, which wasn't a stage but the
floor space at the front. Front seats about six feet from the plinth they
sat on, & behind them organ pipes up to the ceiling virtually..nice setting.
Of course with the additional side-stage rows I sat in.

Shows now timed at Oldham..132min/RFH at 145min/B.Ham approx.130/S'Hampton
at 149m

I don't know if any of the little extra percussion items used by Zakir were
of Japanese origin? Only before the tour he had intended using a variety of
things Eastern he said, including Japanese percussion. & John was to have
also used acoustic...setting off different midi-samples in performance,
although this didn't actually occur in practise.. Think that's exhausted my
memory now..