Monday, August 20, 2012

The Beatles Tribute Show - by Barefaced Liar - 16 August 2012 - Blue Frog, New Delhi

The image above popped up on my Facebook page one day and immediately caught my attention. This was one gig I knew I couldn’t miss, for reasons more than one. One, being a lifelong Beatles fan, and not getting nearly enough opportunities to hear them covered live, this sounded promising. Second, I’d heard Barefaced Liar’s first album, and was hooked to their songwriting prowess. Third, I had always wondered what effect a thoroughly modern take on their songs would have. So, the evening of 16th August was reserved for the gig. A quick exit from office, and a thankfully traffic snarl-free drive later, I ended up at the Blue Frog. Now it’s not the easiest of places to get to. The area isn’t particularly well lit, and there was hardly a soul on the road to give us directions. Finally, Varun, of who you shall hear more later on, guided us over the phone.
Getting inside, it’s easy to see why The Blue Frog is becoming increasingly popular. It’s spacious, has well laid out interiors, with scattered high tables and a cluster of very comfortable cocoon-like seating, spread around in amphitheatre fashion. The stage is the show stealer. High and wide, with a great background (see pic below), it was accentuated by the brilliant lighting. Anticipation was building up, but curiously, the crowd wasn’t. Although the gig was supposed to start at 9 PM, even at 9:20, the place was pretty much empty. It’s only around 9:45 that the well heeled gentry make their fashionably late entry. Ah, Delhi! One wonders what would happen if a band actually started playing on time. They’d just be playing for the staff at the pub.
Showtime. Barefaced Liar (BFL) saunter on stage sharp at 10. Being seasoned professionals, they are just a notch over fashionably late.  The line-up features Akshay on vocals and guitars, Sumanth, or Bala, as is more affectionately known, on guitars and vocals, Rohit on Bass, Suyash on drums and Abhimanyu on the keys. For the performance, the band has donned white shirts and black ties, no less, in case someone missed the point that it was a Beatles tribute. And no messing about once they get on stage, no widdly dee-ing, they dive straight on to “Back in the USSR” with gleeful intensity. So sudden is their start that they catch the crowd completely by surprise. And in the first few minutes, I know I am in for a good time. The band sounds tight – handling the stop-start song with aplomb. Akshay’s vocals are superbly supported by Bala’s harmonies. ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’ the band sings, to the crowd. And quite right too. Akshay doles out a searing lead on the guitar, followed by a keyboard solo by Abhimanyu, and as the song comes to close, Akshay goes ‘Good evening everyone! How’s it going?’ The crowd screams back at him, hungry for more, that’s how it’s going!
Akshay and his trusty Tele
Next up is “Revolution”, where the rhythm section really shines, Suyash on the drums plays with a smile on his face, clearly having a great time, and Rohit on the bass is swaying away, locking in tight with the drums.  The band moves on to “I feel fine” and then to “Something”. The latter, from the Abbey Road album, sees a great vocal harmony trade-off between Akshay and Bala, while the staccato drums make for a great build-up and release. Akshay again launches into a solo, getting a superb weeping tone from his Fender Telecaster. “Strawberry Fields” sees Bala belting out a great solo, his first of the night, followed by “Lady Madonna” in which Bala makes his singing debut for the evening. By this time, the crowd is in raptures, lustily joining the band to shout ‘See how they run’.
On a roll
 Things have been going rather well so far, so the law of averages inevitably catches up. The next song “In my life” sounded a bit shaky, the band not entirely together. The drums sounded a little jarring, especially the cymbals, which seemed to be at odds with the rest of the song.
BFL makes up for the lukewarm song by launching into “Day Tripper”. Yeah!! Full on adrenaline – fast paced, grunge tinged sound. Fat riffs, loud drums and the fluid basslines get the crowd really going. And to help them along, yes, you got it, the band moves onto “Help”. Excellent vocal harmonies again by Bala. The band did have a few lyrics gaffes on this song (and on Day Tripper too). Now I am a bit stuck on getting the lyrics right, everytime, but that’s taking nothing away from the band. The last two songs were absolutely kick-ass.

Great music, powered by Line 6. Helped on by beer.

Akshay then traded in his Tele for an acoustic and got a surprisingly authentic Sitar tone for “Norwegian Wood”. It’s one of my favourite Beatles songs, and I sang the entire song with the band, not the only one in the crowd to do so. I saw a lot of hands waving in the air. If it were not Delhi, those hands would be waving lighters. Great experience, that song! The band a bit of an oops moment with “Here comes the sun”, with some missed cues. I’ve always felt that one can tell a musician worth his salt by the way he recovers from a stage error. BFL proves that. They do not bat an eyelid, do not stop, and carry on into the song, which makes for mellow, pleasant listening. Next up are “You’ve got to hide your love away”, of which I had only heard the Eddie Vedder cover on ‘I am Sam’ soundtrack, and “Let it be”. Abhimanyu on the keys is brilliant on the latter, providing a great foil to Bala’s vocals.

Akshay goes acoustic

BFL decide that they want some dancing in the house and their rendition of “A hard day’s night” brought to mind the Pied Piper, drawing the people forward in front of the stage. First a few PYTs, then two (slightly) elderly and very sweet couples joined in. Yes, everyone was feeling alright! Akshay is the quintessential frontman, be it trading quips with the crowd or belting out those vocals and guitar solos with supreme confidence. The next song was “Eleanor Rigby”, a track one doesn’t hear too often. Abhimanyu on the keys carried this song on his capable shoulders, creating an atmosphere that transported you into a bygone era. The refrain ‘Aaah, look at all those lonely people’ stayed with me a long time after the song ended.
BFL followed it up with “Taxman”, a song I hadn’t heard in more than a decade. But I was instantly hooked. There was a major groove going, with the Suyash dishing out the 4/4 beats, while Rohit was on a roll with the basslines. By now, Varun, of whom you may recall there was a passing reference earlier, was a certified fan of Rohit. Rohit – if you ever read this, please know that not all shrieks of “Go Rohit! Aaiiiiieeeee” were from the (very pretty) girls present that evening. Varun shouting in falsettos constituted a sizeable percentage. All said and done, this was my favourite song of the evening. The song featured two solos – one by Bala in the middle and a great one by Akshay at the end. Much to Varun’s delight, Rohit donned a harmonica neck holder for the next song. “Love me do” had the crowd dancing again, and to my delight the sweet white haired lady I spoke of earlier was there too. She was absolutely adorable!

Varun's fixation for the evening...Rohit, you may soon get a stalker!
The band invited on stage a special guest for the next three songs. “Helter skelter” saw Neerja showing her vocal prowess. A wee wisp of a girl, but what a voice! I am sure we’ll be hearing much more of her. “I want you” was superbly executed, with the band taking the tempo changes in their stride, jamming and (almost) dancing on stage. Great vibe on that song!  Next on the list was “With a little help from my friends”, Neerja again doing a fantastic job on the backing vocals. But the star of this song was Bala. He sang with such feeling, so much emotion in his voice. While this song was all vocal glory, the other instruments were spot on, never intrusive, and always holding it together. A word about the sound – in terms of acoustics, Blue Frog has one of the best set-ups I’ve come across in a long time. Everything sounded just right. Whoever the sound technician is, I take my hat off to him.

Neerja wows the crowd with her powerful vocals

“Hey Jude” was next. By now, the band had the crowd eating out of its hands. They could sing “Baa baa black sheep” and get away with it. They invited the crowd to join in (for ‘Hey Jude’, not ‘Baa baa black sheep’), handing over a mic to the enthusiasts for the ‘nanananana’ refrain. Askhay and Bala then engaged in a guitar duel, trading off solos. Bliss!
Bala then urged the crowd to “Imagine”, with his guitar and Jesus Christ looks. I am told he’s conserving his facial foliage till BFL’s next album is out. I am also told it’s a couple of months behind schedule, but with Jesus Christ on their side of the ring, BFL needn’t worry! The next song was “Come together”.  Need I say more! After wards, Akshay introduced the band, who acknowledged the cheers from the crowd with some great drum rolls, fretboard wizardry and the Pink Panther theme on the keys!

Bala does a Jesus Christ

It was now time for “While my guitar gently weeps”. Bala traded in his PRS Santana signature model for the guitar that best does the weeping tones – The Les Paul. This song turns out to be a guitar lover’s dream.  Bala made his guitar weep, and none too gently, while Akshay’s Mark Tremonti Signature Wah pedal created a wailing tone for his solo. This was turning to be an evening far beyond my expectations. I came here expecting about 10-12 songs, but this was the 23rd song of the evening, and the band hadn’t taken a break, just marched on, immersing themselves, and the crowd, in a deluge of melodies.
Next up, Bala treated the crowd to an acoustic double bill – “Yesterday” and “Blackbird”. The former was particularly well received. Time for the final act then. BFL wrapped things up in style, inviting the crowd to “Twist and shout”. And everyone present, they twisted and they shouted, as BFL brought the house down.  A fitting end to what was for me the most exciting live music experience in a long time. I missed “Get back”. And I regretted that I didn’t capture the concert on video. Note to self for the next BFL show!
A gig to remember
All said and done, it was a tribute show the Beatles themselves would be proud of. And it was a show that I am sure made a lot of people reminisce. On that night, I got a little bit of my boyhood back, when I would come back from school, pop in a Beatles cassette into the old National Panasonic player, and air guitar my way through life, knowing for certain that life could throw nothing at me I couldn’t deal with. That naiveté has long gone, tempered by reality and replaced with cynicism. But every once in a while, something comes along that makes you feel, if only for a little while, that you are invincible. Thank you guys. For the music.  For the memories. For the two-hour cloak of invincibility.


Darshan singh sur said...

Gud, keep it up u all guys, I realy missed u alll ,

Varun said...

Hey Purnadeep pretty nice summary of the night... Looking forward for more such outings..

PS: If Rohit aint playing then it will be tough....... smile......