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The scalpers were out in full force for this highly anticipated gig, the 20-plus-year reunion of the phenomenal "East Meets West" fusion group that pioneered the concept of world music back in 1975. Because neither violinist L. Shankar nor ghatam player T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram from the original lineup were on hand for this tour, it was billed as Remember Shakti (just as a late '80s edition of Weather Report without Wayne Shorter was dubbed Weather Update). While tabla master Zakir Hussain and guitar great John Mc Laughlin represented a link to the past, Vikku's son V. Selvaganesh on ghatam and the incredible 30-year-old virtuoso U. Srinivas on electric mandolin provided some fresh blood for the group, inspiring their elders with their youthful enthusiasm. Srinivas was the revelation this evening.
Fans who had checked out the band's recent verve 2-CD set (recoded live during a 1997 U.K. tour) were perhaps expecting bansuri master Hariprasad Chaurasia to make the gig. The bansuri, a very mellow-sounding kind of bamboo flute, set a mesmerizing, enchanting tone for that album and tour. The electric mandolin has a far more piercing attack, and in the hands of someone as gifted as Srinivas-a force of nature who debuted in Carnegie Hall at the age of nine-it provided a cutting challenge for Mc Laughlin's pyrotechnics. Needless to say, the sparks were flying. Mc Laughlin had recently switched from his Gibson Johnny Smith model jazz box (the guitar he has played in both his Free Spirits and The Heart Of Things bands) to his Gibson 345 semi-hollow body guitar with scalloped fretboard (his axe of choice during the late '70s with his One Truth Band). This instrument, which was also equipped with a Bigsby whammy bar for Indian-sounding articulation, seemed to liberate Mc Laughlin to fly with impunity up and down the neck. Pushed by Srinivas' dazzling scalar flights and audacious glisses, John burned with a kind of fury he hasn't displayed in years. And the super-human Zakir Hussain was with them both stride for stride.
A truly inspired and inspiring event.