June 13 ,2018 – Mojo’s Triple Treat Review: Stephen Devassy & His Keytar The Highlight Of The Night
Triple Treat, a part of the Mojo Concert Series organized by Mojo Projects took place over the weekend. We could not contain our excitement as we walked into Hotel Istana. Who wouldn’t be? Agam, Naresh Iyer AND Stephen Devassy were scheduled to perform that evening!
Excellent Opening By The Malaysians
A local band comprising of crooner Arvind Raj, Abimanyu, Music Kitchen opened the show with Adiye, a crowd favourite. They proceeded to sing a few mashups before ending their opener with a bang. Their version of Varaha Nadhiharai melded well with Where Is The Love. Arvind Raj’s deep, throaty voice did the songs justice, and Abimanyu (of Ola Bola Musical fame) made sure to add in his signature ad lib singing to the tunes. We must add that the two harmonized beautifully, especially during their rendition Kau Ilhamku.
While the boys were very energetic and sung their hearts out, it was difficult to hear their voices over the music. We assumed it was because they were the first on stage and the sound engineers would have done the needful to prevent it from happening again. We were wrong.
The Dream We Will Always Remember
It was mighty kind of the organizers to allow for a 30 minute buka puasa (breaking of fast) interlude before everyone’s favourite carnatic progressive rock band, Agam, took the stage. And boy, did they command the stage! They first performed Brahma’s Dance. Whether it was to invoke the divine or not, Agam definitely invoked something in the audience.
They stole our hearts with the sensuous, seductive and soulful in song such as Swans of Saraswathy, to the raw, raucous and rebellious of Rangapura Vihara. Kudos to Sivagami for performing a solo traditional dance to Mist of Capricorn.
The crowd goes wild as Harish Sivaramakrishnan coaches the audience to sing along to the chorus of Kooth Over Coffee. Something marvellous happens as the song ends. A group in the audience start chanting the chorus of The Boat Song. The chant grows and soon enough, the entire audience is singing “Thitithaana Thithithai…” Taking the cue, Harish and team launch into the peppy Malayalam number next.
Agam ended their hour with a solo from all the band members on their instruments, and a fantastic drum off between the drummer and percussionist. Agam deserved the standing ovation they received, and the audience was overwhelmed by their sheer talent. To top it off, Harish then belts out a few lines from the classic, Nila Kaigiradhu when interviewed by host Anantha. The audience sat in silence as he made magic with his vocal prowess.
The A R Rahman Prodigy
The Navneeth Sundar Ensemble then take the stage, as they begin to play their music, we quickly notice that they’re an 8-piece band armed with a string trio of two violinists and a cellist! Naresh runs in singing the lines “Iru Pookal Kilai Mele”, the catchy gut wrenching song from Uyire. He graces the stage with a few more of his classics and new songs like Roobaroo and Yaayum Yaayum.
The real crowd-pleaser, however, was his evergreen Mundhinam Parthene. Naresh then proceeded to sing Kannukul Kanne with a brilliant rock twist, and the violinists did it justice. He then flowed into Munbe vaa, where the cellist, Mr Shekhar, might have been the actual star of that song.
Naresh then blew us away by singing Kanne Kalaimaane, totally didn’t see that coming bro! The band sans Naresh then performed two instrumental numbers, both of which left the audience wanting more. The closer was what got the audience dancing, Vena Machan Vena, the spirited, chauvinistic number even had Naresh bust some moves on the dance floor with his fans!
The Keytar That Stole The Show
Stephen Devassy was next and his entry was spectacular. He appears in the back of the hall, the spotlight on him with his signature keytar, playing one of his own compositions, as he walks through the now hysterical audience towards the stage. The only thing that matches Stephen’s talent is his charisma, and he oozes it. In spite of being a musician and not a vocalist, Stephen was incredibly engaging and got the crowd singing along to the classic Tamil hits, like Veetukku Veetukku Vaasapadi, Mustafa Mustafa and Humma Humma. The audience went crazy when he played Maanguyile Poonguyile and sang along even louder.
Together with the Solid Band, Stephen blew our minds that night. He appeared to be thumping randomly on his keytar but what came out was glorious music. Stephen also had two singers perform with his band, Sham Prasad and Ramya. The latter did justice by the song Adiye which was reminiscent Sid Sriram’s performance at the Mojo Concert in 2017.
As the concert reached its climax, Stephen’s violinist, the zany, magnificently talented Francis, did a rendition of Engeyum Eppothum with Sham Prasad. Imagine the “kattazhagu ponnirukku vattamidum kaathirukku..” verse done completely with the crescendo of a violin! This was one of the many times that night that the music out-shined the singer. Needless to say, there were fans on the dance floor from the start to the end of Stephen Devassy’s performance!
There’s Room for Improvement
The Navneeth Sundar Ensemble were exceptional. But the string trio were barely audible throughout the performance. In fact, Naresh was also heard giving instructions to the sound engineer while he was on stage.
Aside from that, Agam and Stephen Devassy are stadium sized artists and perhaps a ballroom is not the best choice to showcase their music.
Verdict: Excellent performers all round. Luckily, there was so much talent showcased, that by the end of the night, we forgot all about the sound glitches. Big thanks to Mojo Projects for bringing world-class musicians over!