The Rediff Special/ Ruchi Sharma
The show was a smashing success. Twenty thousand people turned up to hear Bryan Adams in Bombay on Sunday evening, exceeding by one account the crowd that turned up to see Michael Jackson in December 1997.
People began to gather at 3.30 pm for the concert four hours later. Unlucky folks who had not bought tickets in time, now reduced to buying stubs from scalpers. Tickets worth Rs 300 went for Rs 1,000! When cash didn't work, desperate pleas were made for extra tickets. We became most popular when we gave away two tickets.
Inside, the crowd went into a foot-stomping frenzy, as Adams belted out hit after hit. Despite the incredible heat and sweat -- several score people fainted -- at the NSE ground at Goregaon, northwest Bombay, the audience enjoyed themselves, matching Bryan bar for bar. On stage for about 90 minutes, the Canadian rocker seemed pleased with the response. During a break, he hopped backstage, flung his arms around a friend, and asked: "I'm wonderful, ain't I?"
Indipop star Falguni Pathak, who came in after half the performance was over, watched in awe, as the 41 year old held his audience in thrall. "I am a huge fan," she gushed. "I think he is great on stage." No chance of a guest appearance? "Are you crazy?" she asked.
Sweating it out with the crowd was Vijay Lazarus, who heads Universal Music, Adams's record label. No VIP pass? "We decided to do away with a VIP section altogether. It offends too many people who don't get invited," he laughed. "He is fantastic on stage, no matter where he performs. I have been watching him all over the world for 22 years. Few people can carry an audience like he can."
Ajay, who had flown in from Delhi for the show, was just as equivocal. "I never miss a live performance. I've watched Savage Garden, Michael Jackson, Boyzone -- everyone. I saw Bryan Adams when he first came here in 1993. He is awesome."
A little distance away, a group of girls were thoroughly enjoying themselves. "We are from Goa," shouted one of them, Gladys, between songs. "We've come all the way to attend the concert. Luckily, our schools are closed for the summer."
All the way here, for a concert? All alone? How on earth did they convince their parents? "Oh, no," Gladys giggled, even as she prepared to strum to the music on her cardboard guitar cutout. "We've come here with our parents. They will pick us up after the show."
Even as people craned their necks for a glimpse of Bryan, others cornered prime viewing spots for themselves. Urchins and chauffeurs scaled the NSE compound wall backing the stage and caught a great view of the concert. All for free. For some reason, they seemed to be under the impression that Amitabh Bachchan was going to put in an appearance. So they periodically chanted the Big B's name.
Amongst the rocking crowd was one person for whom it was a dream come true. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a spastic, wheelchair bound child received tickets for the concert. She seemed to be enjoying herself thoroughly, moving to the music and mouthing her way through every song.
Rumour was rife that Sachin Tendulkar was expected, which added considerably to the crowd's expectancy levels. He did turn up, only to leave within five minutes. Standing around backstage, he politely refused to oblige photographers, even as he watched the show for a few minutes.
"I really like watching live performances. I like the music," he said. If you liked the music so much, why did you leave in five minutes, Sachin? Dressed in black, he silently melted into the darkness before you could volley any more questions.
Adams toyed with the crowd, especially when he pretended to deeply consider whom to haul on stage. Finally, he pulled out Simran Thadani, a student at the Cathedral school, Bombay, who rocked with him, matching step for step. At this point a section of the crowd that felt left out registered their protest loudly. To which Bryan responded, "Do you all wanna be up here or what?" A resounding 'Yes' answered that question clearly.
"It isn't easy to have a crowd this size literally dancing to your tunes," Leslie Lewis, one half of the Colonial Cousins, said admiringly. But dancing they were, as Bryan played to the galleries with the panache he is known for. From Summer of '69 and Run to you to 18 till I die to Everything I do, I do it for you and Let's make it a night to remember, he gave Bombay his best. Among the numbers he missed out were I want to be your underwear and Have you ever really loved a woman?
But, at the end, few were complaining.
Simran Thadani's dream come true
Bryan Adams: I don't understand the politics in this country
Photographs: Jewella C Miranda. Design: Lynette Menezes
The Rediff Specials