Gig Report: A R Rahman Greatest Hits Live

A London performance by A R Rahman after five years. India’s 69th Independence Day. The O2 Arena, one of the most prestigious concert venues from around the world that has hosted the who’s who of the music scene. There were multiple reasons to be excited about The Greatest Hits Live concert on the 15th of August, if not the simple fact that this was an A R Rahman concert. Whatever the reason, the concert opened to a packed stadium, some even carrying the Indian flag. And almost as soon as the curtains were drawn and the spotlight fell on the man he was off running to his seat at the side of the stage for a short dreamy solo on the continuum fingerboard that segued into an auspicious sort of start with the Maula chant from Arziyaan, Javed Ali joining him at this point. While the fact that the chants did not unfold into the main song was a downer, that disappointment lasted just moments, till the opening strains of the chronological first of those “Greatest Hits” echoed across the arena – Jonita Gandhi coming onto the stage with Chinna Chinna Aasai/Dil Hai Chhota Sa, later joined by Sasha Tirupati and Neeti Mohan and of course Rahman himself with that humming in between, and Naveen Kumar on flute perhaps the only representative of the 1992 ensemble. Another legendary song followed, Haricharan making his entry with Uyire/Tu Hi Re and this time Ashwin Srinivasan joins Naveen on the bass flute, both of them doing a soulful job. The third song of the evening too was from the Mani Ratnam stable – Dil Se Re – though ARR fashioned this one on his MTV Unplugged performance of it, a piano prelude and everything. Except the piano solo in the interlude was replaced by a stunner of a jam between ARR and the violinist Natalie Klouda!

A R Rahman (Photo Credits: Nicky Kelvin)

A R Rahman (Photo Credits: Nicky Kelvin)

The true song of the occasion was to happen next, the maestro instilling national pride among everyone present at the venue with Yeh Jo Des/Unthan Desathin. The song also had a poignant video to go with it, one of the very few instances during the evening that visual accompaniments were present (it was a solo dancer on some other occasions), the focus was thankfully on the music for most part otherwise. In keeping with the concert’s title, the setlist kept flitting from one awesome song to the next, from old to the new to the not-so-new  – Munbe Vaa (loved how Keba Jeremiah’s guitar was used to stand in for the santoor phrases), Saathiya/Pachai Nirame, Naane Varugiren.. Some international compositions were also thrown in for good measure, Sajna from The Hundred Foot Journey being my favourite among those. A conspicuous absentee during the first half of the concert was Karthik who was supposed to have attended the rehearsal sessions. He did eventually appear however, post a lovely sufi session (Kun Faya Kun, Khwaja Mere Khwaja) featuring ARR and Javed Ali in the lead and Sai Shravanam on tabla. Karthik did just two songs in the gig though, his recent hit Sinamika from OK Kanmani and one of his most popular songs, Girlfriend.


Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera (Photo credits: Nicky Kelvin)

About three hours and over 30 songs later, the concert came to a close with the composer’s multiple award winning track Jai Ho that formed the last segment of a four song medley. If I were to choose some highlights from the evening, they would be these: Berklee singer Annette Philip’s mind-blowing jazz rendition of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na alongside ARR, complete with scatting effects and the like; second half of the flute version of Kaadhal Rojaave/Roja Jaaneman by Naveen where ARR introduced a brilliant twist in the form of a Western counterpoint from violinist Natalie (it is amazing how ARR manages to do an awesome reinvention of this song each time, I still remember the Mumbai concert where an orchestral version was done with Vijay Prakash on vocals); and that time when ARR decided to do a bunch of unplugged renditions with just the piano and his voice, as a filler while the Intel RealSense setup was being fixed. Not all was hunky-dory of course, I was particularly rankled by the seemingly excessive use of heavy percussion in some of the softer songs in comparison to their original versions. Some of the tracks dearly missed their original singers. The Poraalae cover using the Intel RealSense devices would have been another high point of the night if not for timing issues on the vocal front. It did however make for an intriguing spectacle for the novelty of the technology, and the way it was employed to create sounds suiting a village song.

For more pictures from the concert, visit our fb page.

Full song list (since some people asked for it):

Arziyaan (part) – Dilli 6
Chinna Chinna Aasai/Dil Hai Chhota Sa – Roja
Uyire/Tu Hi Re – Bombay
Dil Se Re – Dil Se
Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera/Undhan Desathin Kural – Swades/Desam
Munbe Vaa – Sillunu Oru Kaadhal
Saathiya/Pachai Nirame – Saathiya/Alai Payuthey
Naane Varugiren – OK Kanmani
Pookkale – I
Jashn-e-Bahaara – Jodhaa Akbar
Nenjukkulle – Kadal
Tu Bole – Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na
Tere Bina – Guru
Saajna – The Hundred Foot Journey
Love’s Never Easy/Ishq Bina – Bombay Dreams/Taal
Kaadhal Rojaave/Roja Jaanemann (Flute) – Roja
Kun Faya Kun – Rockstar
Khwaja Mere Khwaja – Jodhaa Akbar
Sinamika – OK Kanmani
Rehna Tu/Malargal Kaetten/Maahi Ve (unplugged) – Dilli 6/OK Kanmani/Highway
Jiya Re – Jab Tak Hai Jaan
O Humdum/Endrendrum – Saathiya/Alai Payuthey
Girlfriend – Boys
Mayya Mayya – Guru
Poraalae – Karuthamma
Patakha Guddi – Highway
Naadaan Parindey – Rockstar
Chaiyya Chaiyya/Mental Manadhil/Khalifa/Jai Ho – Dil Se/OK Kanmani/Lekar Hum Deewana Dil/Slumdog Millionaire

Full artist credits:


A R Rahman

Javed Ali


Haricharan Seshadri

Neeti Mohan

Jonita Gandhi

Hriday Gattani

Shashaa Kiran Tirupati





Mohammed Aslam

Parag Chhabra



Ranjit Barot (Drums)

Naveen Kumar (Flute)

Sanket Jayant Athale (Percussion)

Ashwin Srinivasan (Flute & Abelton)

Annette Philip (Keyboards & Vocals)

Karthikeyan Devarajan (Keyboards)

Keba Jeremiah Arul (Guitar)

Mohini Sujay Dey (Bass Guitar)

Natalie Klouda (Violin)

Sai Shravanam (Tabla)

Aditya Modi (Sequencers)



Deepak Gattani



Srinivasa Murthy



Ranjit Barot



Sunil Karanjikar



Chris DeLucien



Tim Routledge



Neil Mcdonald



Abhishek Sawant (Illuvision)





8th Day Sound



All Access



Saira Rahman




Devi Rani Najev



Samy Durai

Arun Acharya

Sanjiv Utekar

Manish Dilip Shinde

Mahesh Tambe



Svaha Live



Sandhya Gattani

Elizabeth Chettiar

Tarun Bhatia

Fenil Khakhar

Nikhil Kotian



Neil Mcdonald (Clockwork Production Ltd.)


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