Burning up the stage

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With all due respect to Rohail Hyatt and Co, sometimes ultra-slick production, flawless studio work and appropriately timed smiles and nods on camera pale in comparison to a sweaty, raw, in-your-face rock show as witnessed at Aamir Zaki and Spoonful’s performance at the Pak American Cultural Centre in Karachi last Saturday.

Arranged by Base Rock Cafe and supported by CityFM89, the two-hour show was a mix of rock n’ roll frenzy, raucous guitars turned up far too loud and a packed house which was often driven to stand up, cheer, dance and even head bang through age-old rock classics.

Aamir Zaki took the stage by storm with Hammad, Spoonful’s towering front man, ripping through riffs and passages of songs like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious”, the unforgettable blues anthem “Bad to the Bone” and Zaki’s own masterpieces including crowd pleasers, “Jaana” and the haunting “Mera Pyaar” which got pockets of the audience singing along.

Quiet, focused and aiming for perfection seemed to define Zaki’s persona on stage as he battled with the auditorium’s sound to deliver a bagful of blues licks and tricks in long, extended solos.

While giving strong support to Zaki, Spoonful held their own in amped-up renditions of other staple rock tracks, including Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”. However, this was not Spoonful’s best performance to date. The band regular line-up was trumped by the opening performance by brothers Usman and Nadir Siddiqui from the Great Drama Queen Conundrum, who joined up with Spoonful to deliver electric, even theatrical (in a good way) covers of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Were there glitches in the overall sound? Was there trouble hearing vocals and were there occasional fumbles in the performance? Did Zaki glare at the drummer more than once? Sure. But it didn’t matter. With a strong stage presence and uncontrived passion, the audience was more than willing to forgive Zaki and Spoonful for their slip-ups. This was underground music played in the name of music alone, and that commitment was written across the faces of those who took the stage, both young and old. As one sweaty, jubilant member of the audience put it, “For me this (concert) has trumped the next Coke Studio episode, and not only because I’ve gone half deaf here.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2010

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