Well, that was a disaster! And not in the way I was expecting, but rather the complete opposite. Salman and all the performers were great, it was everything else that was shockingly bad. And I can look at video from Atlanta and see that they got a totally different show than I did. WHAT HAPPENED IN CHICAGO????
I’ve been to 4 Indian shows at this same arena. And this wasn’t just the worst of them, it was the worst show I have seen anywhere at any time in my life, including the school concerts I was in in elementary school. They took actual good content and turned it into junk.
(Sohail Khan Entertainment, JA Events, and Sahil Promotions are all terrible. Specifically Hetal Patel who is a Chicago local and manages Sahil Promotions and apparently destroyed this show and also thinks Rauner is a not-sociopath)
Let me begin at the beginning. Before the show started, the organizers announced a special guest, our Governor Bruce Rauner. He came out on stage with his wife, and told the crowd he would help them with their businesses and educating their kids. Everyone cheered. Bruce Rauner is in the middle of a re-election fight, this was a campaign stop, the organizers essentially gave him their endorsement and a platform. Rauner is also the man who got us 15 BILLION in debt, and inches away from state bonds being declared “junk” level. He refused to sign a state budget for over 2 years, the longest any state in America has gone without a budget. He is a disaster and a joke to anyone who is paying the slightest attention to what is happening. Which is clearly NOT the organizers of this show. This was a show put together by rich idiots. They didn’t want to do the work, they didn’t want to listen to advice, they just wanted to spend the least amount of money in the worst way possible. This show was the entertainment equivalent of driving a state $15,000,000,000 into debt.
The way the arena is structured is the same as any venue like this, it is built primarily for sporting events. So there is a large flat floor, and then on two long and one short side their are bleacher seats and balconies and above them, boxes. When there is a stage show, the stage is put up opposite the short side, which means it is very difficult to see if you are on one of the long sides, and even if you are head on to the stage, you are usually so far away that you can’t make out details. To make up for that, there are two large screens on either side of the stage that broadcast close up videos of what is happening. There is a third large screen behind the stage which can be used to create video backdrops. And of course a variety of lighting options.
(See? If you are along the side, you can’t see the stage at all, so you need the side screens)
There are two problems with this show, what was there and what wasn’t there. I’ll start with what wasn’t. Part of what makes an arena concert stand out is the ability to do something unusual with the staging. At Dream Team, Alia was lowered down from the ceiling sitting on a giant glowing ball. At SLAM, Deepika rose up from the floor on a cone of light. Even at the Arijit Singh concert, which was entirely music, he had the whole orchestra on stage behind him so that he could conduct while he sang, something you could only do at an arena that had a big enough stage. This show had absolutely nothing like that. People walked on and off stage, and that was it. They didn’t even use the screen to split down the middle so they could go through the back. No, you literally watched them finish the number, pose in the middle, and then just sort of shuffle off to the side and leave. There was no spectacle. No props, no contraptions, no nothing. They did nothing that you could not have done in a high school auditorium.
What makes it very weird is that I am seeing video from the Atlanta show where that DID happen. But I swear, it didn’t happen in Chicago. I’m legitimately wondering of the stagehands walked out when they saw Rauner was being endorsed. I know I almost did, and I’m not even union labor.
(Nope, he just came out. We got the video, and then nothing, and then dancers shuffled out, and then Salman walked on stage)
And then there’s the problem of what was there. What was there was a whole bunch of lights. The entire show, they were sending lights out into the audience in a variety of patterns. And yet, I realized when I was thinking about it later, they never did a single light effect on the stage. Even something as simple as a little twinkly star pattern on the floor. All of the lights were directed out. And if you are thinking “wait, doesn’t that mean you were blinded by lights and couldn’t see anything?” then you are CORRECT!!!!
I literally could not see ANYTHING. It was infuriating. The people onstage were dancing their hearts out, and all I could see was blurry shadows. And I was probably doing better than most, the moviemavengal (who I went with) pointed out that the side seats had beams of light directly in front of them for most of the show and probably could only see those beams, not even the blurry shadows we got to enjoy.
That’s what you actually saw, nothing interesting or exciting created for it in terms of special effects, and the stupidest light design in the history of the world. But there’s more! There’s also the way what you saw was put structured, the pacing of it all.
First, let’s talk about those smaller side screens. Every other show, they’ve done the obvious easy thing. If someone is dancing, you show medium distance, enough to see the star and the two or three chorus dancers on either side in full body. Because it’s dance, it should be full body. If someone is talking, you show the top part of their body so we can see their face and their hands. That’s all you need to do.
In this show, they chose to show the full stage, but smaller. WHY????? I can SEE the stage!!! In, like, life size! Why would I want to see a tiny tiny video image to the right and left? And when they were tired of that, they switched to showing the dancer’s faces. So you could follow what they were doing by watching their heads bob up and down a little in the frame, without seeing their bodies at all. Oh, and then they would show cheering crowd reaction shots. I’M IN THE CROWD!!!!! I don’t need to see what it is like, I am actually HERE at this concert right now!!!!! There was one very small talking section, and at that point they opted for just not showing anything. I guess because people were moving around naturally, and the camera couldn’t handle following them around the stage, so they would just wander in and out of frame. And remember the lights issue? Yeah, there were sometimes the screen was just black on black looking because even the cameras couldn’t pick up what was happening in screen, it was so poorly lit. Oh, and also one of the screens went out complete in the middle of the show and just had a little grey “reboot” box bouncing around on it for 5 minutes until it came back.
(This is all they needed to do. And apparently they managed it in Atlanta, but not in Chicago)
And then there was the pacing. Every other show I have seen, they have used the video screens to the right and left and back to help cover scene changes. It’s easy and obvious and it works. You just do a little video, hit play, and then when it finishes, the show comes back. This show did that too, they had intro videos for the performers. And then the video would end, and we would all sit there in darkness for 2 minutes waiting for the act to start. WHAT THE HECK???? How basic is that, to time your scene changes and makes sure you have a cover? A good 45 minutes of the evening was spent sitting there waiting for the next bit to start.
Oh, and that’s not all! There’s also poor Manish Paul, God Bless’em, who had to come out and do patter with the audience over and over and over and over and over again. It was clearly just to kill time while they did…..something. Because, now that I think about it, what were they doing? There were no special effect to set up, a tiny chorus, and even the costumes were unimpressive. What the heck took so long between sets? I guess just massive incompetence backstage as well as onstage.
And the act order itself made no sense! There’s a really simple way to do this kind of a concert, with multiple performers. Everyone comes out and does their own thing, and then you do a mix and match, combining them together. You throw in a little audience patter and interaction as you go along. And you end with everyone on stage together.
In this show, it started with Random Singer doing a couple songs. Not a Bombay film guy, just some local American guy they hired for cover. And then Manish Paul came out and did an opening number that was written for the show (“It’s Dabangg Reloaded!”, like that), and then opening patter. Then Daisy Shah came out. Wearing a t-shirt and jean shorts, NOT an impressive costume, and doing a very unimpressive dance. And here’s an example of the total technical failures. The started with a sheet hanging down from the ceiling and her in shadow behind it. Only, it really did just look like it was hanging down, and it was kind of wrinkled and crinkled up on itself. And the lighting was such that instead of seeing a clean outline of her dancing, you just got a blurry bit of her torso kind of moving.
(It was supposed to be like Shahrukh’s entry here, which I know they can manage at this arena, because that’s the entry they gave him in SLAM exactly)
Besides the technical stuff, so far this is a kind of okay show, random local opening act, opening number and patter from the host, and then the least famous performer does her bit. This was followed by Manish Paul coming out again and going on and on and on with patter with the audience while we all sat there going feeling the energy drain away. And then Prabhudeva! Well, first his intro video, which was quite good. And then the traditional 2 minutes of silence as we stared at an empty stage. And then finally, PRABHUDEVA!!!!! I think. They put a strobe light directly behind him, so I couldn’t actually see him at all. But the chorus on either side of him danced very well, and isn’t that what we came for? To see a big blinking strobe light with chorus dancers on either side?
And then Manish Paul did patter again. And then a Jacqueline video! And then 2 minutes of awkward silence. And finally, Jacqueline was brought out! On one of those wheely cart platforms, that she just sort of stood on and waved. And then had to awkwardly climb from onto the stage. Like, why? She did her number, which seemed fine (what I could see of it), and left. And then, oh boy! MORE PATTER FROM MANISH PAUL!!!! And then Sonakshi video, paaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuse, SONAKSHI. Just sort of walking on stage from the side, and doing her bit. And then Manish Paul patter, which included a “humorous” moment when he does a countdown to Salman appearing, and then stops himself and makes us all start over, ha-ha, building expectations.
(Whatever they paid him, it wasn’t enough. This man worked so hard, and he must have sensed the audience hating him by the end)
The show had already started an hour and a half later, and we had to waste time on stupid Bruce Rauner, so by this time I was not in the mood for any humorous building of expectations. They had stretched out the opening acts as long as humanly possible, I wanted to see what I had paid for. And again, not my first show! I understand the concept of “opening act”, but there’s a difference between everyone else getting their star turn before Salman, and suffering through 40 minutes of audience patter, and a cumulative 15 minutes of sitting in silent darkness waiting for the next act to start.
And then, FINALLY, Salman appeared. And was legitimately wonderful. He danced amazing, they did a medley of songs, he was smiling and brought so much energy to the stage it was great. And then he left, and Manish Paul came back (nooooooo!) and then announced our musical guest, Guru Randhawa. Yay?
I had never heard of this man. I recognized the song “Suit Suit” when he started it, but nothing else. More importantly, he was TERRIBLE at working with the audience. Badshah, for instance, was amazing at that. He got us to do a call and response, to sing along, all sorts of things. That’s the advantage of live singers, they can change things up a little bit as needed to get the crowd going, they can respond to our energy. This guy, he just came out and sang. That’s it. And it kind of felt like the show was over. We’d finally seen Salman, this guy was the closing act, we’re done.
(It’s a great song, but it’s not really enough to carry a whole act)
It wasn’t actually over, but this wasn’t the last time it would feel like that. There was just no momentum to the show. Random “finale” big energy moments thrown into the middle, and then long dull stretches that seemed to go on forever.
After Guru Randhawa, Manish Paul came out again (NOOOOOOOO!) and teased us that Salman would be coming back to do a romantic series. So he came out and sang and danced (well, lead around the stage) each of his heroines in turn. It was a good number, what little I could see of it through the strobe lights. And then there was audience interaction. Which was odd. Manish essentially spoke for Salman, while Salman just kind of stood there and smiled. They brought up 3 women from the expensive seats, and it ended up being the most natural and entertaining and energetic part of the show. Not the least because there was no light work at all, so it was the only time I could see the stage. And also because one of the women was AMAZING, kept grabbing the microphone to talk, hugging Salman, threatening to take him back with her to Michigan, and so on.
And then, oh boy! Another musical act! From a singer I have never heard of!!!!! Who just came out and sang and danced a little to covers of Salman songs. Manish, before this bit started, had to tease us with the “Grande Finale” that would be really grand, because he must have seen that people were beginning to stream out thinking, once again, that the show was over.
And then grand finale, Salman and others come back onstage, Salman dances with Prabhudeva (I think. There was some kind of flickering shadows that looked like them onstage, but all the side screens were showing was crowd reaction, so who knows?), and then some go carries a cardboard box on stage and they all reach in and pull out hats (why?) to throw to the audience, and then leave. And moviemavengal and my friend Dina and I all looked at each other and went “what WAS that????”
Here’s what made the evening doubly frustrating. The whole thing was structured as though there was something to hide, lights to blind us so we couldn’t see the stage, cameras that were constantly turning away from the action, big big gaps in the middle for performers to prepare, and so on. But, the actual performances were wonderful!
Everyone danced spectacularly, the choreography was on point, and the chemistry was wonderful, especially between Salman and Katrina. I saw Kat on stage during Dream Team, and she was stiff and miserable looking. Which is fine. I would be stiff and miserable too, if I had to perform on stage. She kept a smile on her face and did her job, it just didn’t feel natural and happy. But here, oh my gosh! That same magic she and Salman have on screen, was there ten times in person. She looked so soft and happy, and he looked strangely relaxed and contented. I just wanted to see them dance together and smile at each other all night.
There was a really good show at the heart of this. All they had to do was light it so that we could see it, and figure out the transitions so that the timing wasn’t so incredibly draggy. Every other show I have seen has managed this. Vishal and Shekhar at a funky falling down little neighborhood theater, with local dance acts to open for them and the A/V equipment breaking in the middle, was SO MUCH BETTER than this. Because they knew what they were doing, they were struggling with basic technical difficulties, but in the end they knew how to put on a show that people would enjoy. But this show, they didn’t know anything.
I keep looking at the Atlanta videos going “seriously, WHAT THE HECK???” I can see from there that they had the visual spectacle, and they built the show around it, the lags were supposed to have other things in the middle of them, Manish Paul didn’t need to speak so much, and on and on. What happened in Chicago? And can I get my money back?