Going into this performance I was nervous! I am a devoted and fanatical fan of theirs having travelled as far as New York to see them and not missed any of their concerts, including forthcoming ones in India that I am attending. This devotion has resulted in the bar being set very high by 'their' greatness and I was nervous in fear of that bar not being met.
The performance began with this fear haunting me. Their was a glitch in the sound affecting Nafees Khan on the Sitar. A tragic shame primarily as he's one of the Sitar Maestro's in the world today not exporting his sound across the auditorium and caressing those seated. But also, you need every part of this ensemble to be at optimum to experience the magic and knowing what an important stage this was and solo, anything below par would have been caught out and affected the overall experience.
It took a couple of tracks to get his sound sorted and by the time of Lahore Jazz it was and from that moment there was no turning back. They almost took the roof off with Lahore Jazz. I had 3 Pakistani friends with me listening to Sachal for the first time and all of a sudden the Sachal electricity struck them with this piece and every one that followed! Seeing their reactions was complete deja vu for me; their reactions were identical to mine in 2012 when I saw them at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Being the disciple of theirs that I am I am incredibly well versed in each track, each beat, note, rhythm, individual solos etc. Thus, I could detect all the subtle changes they had made for this performance. The boundaries of Take 5 were pushed further primarily by the rhythm section. Baqir Abbass on the flute was expressing a different emotion as compared to Barbican/Kings Place in June of this year. This is not a matter of better or worse; he was simply feeling and expressing the moment. This is why we attend live music! We don't want to see Robots perform and Baqir, Nafees and Ustad Ballu on tabla in particular put it all out there.
The defining tracks of the evening for me were Lahore Jazz and Tuxalee Gate. In one they are applying a Lahore sound to a Jazz structure and Tuxalee is simply a masterpiece of composition, construction and classical mastery.
Now, as they prepare for India and beyond I want to see them push their own boundaries and of the genre they have created; Jazz on classical subcontinent instruments. Yes what they are doing and have achieved is innovative and has already created and pushed many boundaries. I just don't want to see them rely on this innovation thus far and see them doing Pink Panther again and again for example. I saw it the first time on 2012. I have seen and heard them perform Imagine and Stand By Me. Two absolute classics of the west that every child, adult and elderly person know and sing. With a multi racial London audience I felt it would have been a perfect setting to showcase some of these new tracks which demonstrate that they are constantly looking to evolve and challenge themselves.