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I thought I knew what to expect from Kiran Ahluwalia’s concert after marketing it for my job for the previous few months. This was arguably my first mistake. The second was actually attending the concert, but we’ll get to that. I wasn’t a fan of the music we were promoting during the marketing process and went into the whole situation skeptical because of it. However, I figured that going with my friends, and not having to spend any of my actual money on the ticket, might make the experience a little brighter than I was anticipating. It didn’t.

The first thing Kiran did when she got on stage was pull out a bullhorn and point it toward the microphone. I don’t know if she was expecting a certain vocal effect in singing through the bullhorn, but nothing happened other than unnecessary amplification. Off to a rough start in my book, Kiran then began swaying around the stage, seemingly out-of-touch with any beat or rhythm that her band was playing. Distracting to say the least, Kiran’s dancing took away from the already lackluster music.

Accompanying each monotonously subpar song was a pseudo-philosophical sentiment about peace or happiness or self-exploration. None of these made sense to begin with, but they got further-stretched and less comprehensible as the night progressed. Whether she was getting drunk off the music or whatever was in her water bottle, Kiran became less and less coherent throughout the first set. The sway-dancing got even less rhythmic, her soft voice seemed slurred, and she had her eyes closed more often than not.

Kiran’s band was significantly more interesting than her or her singing, and I paid most of my attention to them. Their half-casual, half-traditional Indian attire aside, the band knew what they were doing and were able to follow along with Kiran’s unnatural twists and turns. Whether they were used to trying to follow Kiran’s loosely defined path or they were just excellent musicians, it was clear they knew what they were doing. The drummer especially was masterful in the use of cymbals versus drums and the beat never felt too heavy or complicated.

My own cynicism aside, some individuals really seemed to enjoy the concert. After one song, a rowdier member of the audience yelled out, “Nice!” which Kiran, of course, didn’t even acknowledge. Another audience member was obviously very into the concert and even more into telling his date about what was happening on stage. As a whole, however, the lethargy of the crowd was hard to overcome as a member and, I’m sure, as a performer. But oh how Kiran tried. Her energy was low but she really pushed, kind of forced actually, the audience to clap for her little speeches.

One aspect of the concert that I really enjoyed was my newfound ability to understand aspects of the music. For example, Kiran scat sang, poorly, the Sa Re scale. And I knew what was happening! It was very exciting to be able to make that connection. Unfortunately, I think Julie Andrews probably could have done it better. Kiran’s scales were more sorry than sa re.

My main issue with this concert was how much Kiran expected from the audience versus how little she gave back. The music wasn’t awful, but she was disagreeable and dislikable. Kiran as a performer made it difficult to engage with the music because she was so over-the-top and in-your-face with her build-up to it and performance of it. At times she even came across as patronizing. There is a way to go about explaining music that people aren’t familiar with without coming across as a pretentious diva.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy the concert, but there certainly were people who did. The music was okay, but not good enough to make up for the low-energy and forced tranquility of the performer. Maybe I’d see just the band perform, but Kiran really turned me off for the night.

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