Kailash Kher: Live last night
By Mark Jenkins
Bollywood movie musicals are known for vivid costumes, exuberant dances and musically omnivorous scores. Kailash Kher and Kailasa's Tuesday performance at Lisner Auditorium didn't quite deliver on the first two of those: Kher's five-piece band wore street clothes, although the singer did set off his jeans and T-shirt with shiny gold sneakers. And while the Mumbai-based performer executed some jumps, twirls and kicks, he left most of the dancing to the audience. But the show had plenty of that last ingredient, stylistic sweep.
(All musical styles represented, after the jump.)
Kher is a Sufi Muslim, and his nearly two-hour set included tunes derived from that tradition's chants, as well as yearning Bollywood ballads. But the concert also incorporated rock, disco, reggae and more. Bassist Naresh Kamath rapped a little, and guest percussionist Karsh Kale -- a star of London's ethno-techno scene -- played Cuban-style congas as well as India's tabla. The show climaxed with Kher's first big hit, "Allah Ke Bande," whose thumping shuffle was pure '60s garage-rock.
The diminutive singer, who performed at the Patriot Center in 2007 in a package tour of Bollywood "playback singers," sounded a lot better with his own group behind him. Yet despite a stint as an "Indian Idol" judge, Kher is still not much of a showman. Aside from his crack band, Kher's principal asset is his voice, which has been heard in more than 60 movies (including Hollywood's recent "Couples Retreat.'') Kher's tone is full and deep, yet he can execute high trills without any apparent strain. Sufi chants may not feature prominently on the new "Yatra," Kher's first U.S. album, but they underpin his rapturous swoops.
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