Live Review: Delhi 2 Dublin @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver – November 30th 2012

I’d never seen the Commodore look festive, the lights and decorations around the pillars on the long sides of the dance floor and garlands strung along the railings made for a really nice atmosphere. The room was comfortably warm and every available seat was taken. The balcony was not open that evening, and as the house right staircase to it was where I chose to be my ‘spot’, I had the pleasure of advising patrons of this fact over and over again.

At 9:30 Portland’s DJ Anjali came on stage to start her set and there were perhaps 60 people gathered in front of the stage and more trickled onto the dance floor as it progressed. I have to say, the DJ experience is an unfamiliar one for me. For the first 25 minutes I felt like I was watching a music fan dance to the music they like to listen to. Is that what DJing is? Seriously, is it? She did no effects or distortions or anything, she just played one song after another. I will say this for her, and this is an observation, not a critique: Anjali had more energy than the music she was playing, or maybe that is the style.

At about 5 minutes to 10 another DJ takes over (at the end he is introduced as “The Incredible Kid”) and then it becomes more of a show because Anjali then takes left of centre stage and begins to dance for real for about 15 minutes. Then she goes off-stage for 15 minutes and I’m watching a dude head bang and flip through his CD collection. The dance floor is about ¾ full by this point, so I do think it’s me. Anjali comes back briefly, to confer with her colleague and to grab her purse, and comes back to dance during the last song which ends an hour of cool music. She has great energy and has a lot of fun dancing – she obviously enjoys what she does, I’m just not sure I enjoy it as much.

As a bit of a backgrounder, I had become interested in D2D’s music during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics when there was such great buzz surrounding them (even the guys from the Ethiopian delegation I was volunteering with saw them perform and loved them) and since this “little band from Vancouver BC” continued touring and making music and this is the first time I got to hear them again.

Delhi 2 Dublin begins at quarter to 11 with 4 band members drumming and an electric sitar. As the name would suggest they are a multi-cultural group, one would expect an East Indian contingent from the Delhi side, a European one from the Dublin side, the surprise was the rocking Korean guy on electric sitar and electric guitar in the utili-kilt! Nicely played, I’d say. I also think calling them ‘multi-cultural’ does them a bit of an injustice – it’s a pigeon-hole into a category, and personally, I’d prefer to see this as an example of what ‘normal’ looks and sounds like. It’s reflective of the population in ethnicity and musical taste so why can’t the same go for music production? I’d love to hear this band on mainstream radio.

The first several songs were in what I presume is Punjabi (but what do I know?), then they went bilingual, then spent some time in English, and just generally mixed it up a lot, I even heard Spanish. It gives me some pause for thought – at the end of the day lyrics are ‘just’ words to the beat and/or melody, and does it really matter what language they’re in? I’d argue no. You either feel a connection to it or you don’t, kind of like the people who play Green Day’s “Good Riddance” as a wedding song because they like the line about having the time of one’s life, despite the “I hope it was worth it” tone of the song.

Enough digression, I really liked this show. Everyone is multi-instrumental – we start the show with 4 drummers and the electric sitar, and then one of the tabla drummers morphs into the MC taking care of the electronics (Tarun), one tabla drummer is the fiddler (Sara), the other two stay put as they’re the drum kit (Dave) and the dhol drummer (Ravi). Frontman and singer Sanjay also takes a turn on tabla later on in the show. They have elements of coordinated choreography, which when you’re playing an instrument at the same time cannot be easy, but it works really well for them. They have a lot of fun on stage – the fiddle/guitar-off is playful and they can also play ‘proper’ rock (si-/guitarist Andrew crowd surfs when D2D do Fat Boy Slim’s “Praise You” and it gave the crowd an opportunity to sing as well). Sara takes a turn at a vocal solo song with the traditional “She Moved Through the Fair” accompanied only by the electric guitar which supports her mostly in the song’s mood, underscoring her strong voice and excellent control. Even when she sings softly, nothing happens by chance. For “Love is the Hero”, it’s like she’s channelling Dolores O’Riordan a bit.

When it’s 4 drums and the fiddle it sounds incredibly cool. The channel the fiddle was on was sadly inconsistent, so that could’ve been better because if not from the electronics, many times that’s where the melody comes from. There was full crowd participation for the last song “Turn up the Stereo” and the tables had emptied long, long before. Delhi 2 Dublin’s set was done after about 90 minutes of playing non-stop (maybe 17 songs or so) and they didn’t make the audience wait long before coming back for a three-song encore which included a special introduction to Dave, the drummer from Brooklyn, who is featured with a drum solo.

This band seriously impressed me. They show an awareness of the issues Canada is facing, among them food safety, knowing where your food comes from and if it was ‘engineered’ – whatever people’s opinions are about it, and the importance of inner balance to life in general. There is really good positive energy from every member of this band and lots of it. I respect that they also put their money where their collective mouth is: $2 from the sale of their CD “Turn up the Stereo” on sale for $5 went in support of UBC Farm. Sanjay gave it the motto “good beats and good eats”. He is a very good frontman for the band – and with those amazing arms (remember, I was at the back of the room), it’s hard to take your eyes off him. Nice voice too – as polished as you’d hear from an overproduced R&B group – except that it’s just as smooth and polished live as it is on CD (yes, I bought one). Also visible from the back of the room was the smile on Ravi’s face – from start to finish, this guy grinned and drummed his little heart out.

This was a sort of homecoming for Delhi 2 Dublin – it’s the last show of the tour, the last show of the tour, and there was nothing but heartfelt gratitude and appreciation emanating from Sanjay and Tarun as they shared that with the audience. All’s I can say is “welcome home”. See you again – in the meantime, I’ll be spending some time with the band’s back catalogue.

Photos © Jamie Taylor

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