The Royal Albert Hall, a worldwide-famous venue that regularly hosts some of the highest-profile artists and events in music, welcomed again the multi-talented Nitin Sawhney.
An anticipated concert, not just for the unique mix of musical influences that have created a very distinctive sound of his own setting him apart from many other composers/producers, but also because it would mark a debut of new material from his upcoming album ‘Dystopian Dream’, as well as a killer line-up announced and special audiovisuals by Yeast Culture commissioned especially for the evening. Quite something to look forward to!
Aside from that, having seen Mr. Sawhney four times already, I knew that the evening would be nothing short of magical.
And so the date arrived, the Royal Albert Hall in its timeless beauty once again opend its doors and welcome the attendees in an almost-full Hall for an evening that would feature some of Nitin’s long-known and loved pieces, as well as debuting tracks from his upcoming album, ‘Dystopian Dream’ a work that reflects a darker sound in comparison to previous releases. In words of Nitin himself, his new works is “much darker than anything else I’ve done, based on what I’ve experienced politically and personally in the last year”.
The concert started just a few minutes after 7:30pm with supporting act, Eva Stone, taking the stage. An up-an-coming fresh voice from Newcastle, it was such a delight to listen to! Eva’s impressive talent graced the stage for half-an-hour, in which pieces such as “Runaway” and “Dis-ease” showed this young lady’s crystal-clear voice and wide vocal range that certainly delighted the audience. Her last piece sung ‘a capella’ was followed by the audience giving an applause far louder and more enthusiastic than the one that welcomed her.
Nitin and his band followed after a brief intermission. Starting with earlier pieces, “The Devil and Midnight” from Last Days of Meaning and “Sunset” a gorgeous piece from the Prophesy album, who brought the audience back to Nitin’s earlier and well-known classics. The first preview of his upcoming 10th studio album, Dystopian Dream, was the song “Dark Day”, a striking piece both musically and lyrically whose phrase “politicians lying at the grace of God’s hand” provided an interesting insight of the contents of this upcoming release. A further preview was granted with the interpretation of “Timetrap” a piece from ‘One Zero’ that will be featured as well.
The evening went on with a display of mostly earlier works such as “Letting Go”, “Homelands” in which the stunning vocals of Ashwin Srinivasan are always delightful, along with his sublime flute interpretation. “Moonrise” beautifully graced by Nicky Well’s voice provide a great interpretations of Cheb Mami’s vocals in the album version.
Throughout the set list, the vocals of Nicky Wells, Tina Grace and Rahel D. Dessalegne, -as usual- shined throughout all the tracks as well as Nitin’s own band members whose skill is undeniably high. Guests artists of the likes of Manu Delago in drums, Soumik Datta in Sarod and Alan Thompson in side guitar complemented a great musical evening full of amazing talent and gorgeous music that continued with earlier releases such as the classic “Breathing Light”, a track inspired by the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, “Nadia”, “Dead Man” and “The Conference” who saw Nitin’s voice, -just recovered from pneumonia- challenged (successfully though!) in a duet with Aref Durvesh and his turbo-tabla skills that thrilled the audience and brought wide and loud applause.
The end inevitable came, but not without an encore brought up by the enthusiastic applause of an audience that didn’t seem keen to go away. A brief talk by Nitin saw making mention of the recent passing of U. Shrinivas, which gave a suitable background for an encore with the piece “Prophesy”, an encore –pretty much- dedicated to the memory of the now-late mandolin master. For the interpretation, Nitin adjusted his guitar into the signature tuning that he learned from Shrinivas, in a soulful duet of guitar and tabla that brought to an end a memorable evening.
Some great musicians have gone, but it’s comforting to know that some still prevail among us.