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A review of Pain of Salvation Live in Chennai 29.01.2011

January 31, 2011

I know now that IIT-Madras needs to update its antivirus software. I know this, because in the middle of the encore of Pain of Salvation’s performance at IIT-Madras’ Saarang festival, in one of the most disgraceful episodes that I have ever witnessed at a concert, the faculty had the power to the stage cut. Twice. The first time was during the band’s rendition of Dio’s Don’t Talk to Strangers. The band continued, assuming it was just a technical glitch, and when the power returned, the large screen on stage displayed the Windows blue screen (with a reminder to update the antivirus) to six thousand bewildered fans. After being informed that they had to wrap up the show soon, the band decided to cut short the set and end just three songs into the encore with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. No sooner had singer Daniel Gildenlöw got to the second chorus than the power was cut again, this time permanently. It was humiliating.

Even though the setlist remained unchanged, Pain of Salvation’s second concert in India was completely different from their first at Lucknow the previous week. Their current show, constructed with great care, is very sensitive to momentum. With the constant technical glitches through the set in Chennai, it was impossible for the band to replicate the mood. Whereas the Lucknow show felt like a cohesive and complete entity, the Chennai show turned into a series of brilliantly performed isolated songs.

Opening with Of Two Beginnings off their 2002 album Remedy Lane, the band started to create something special yet again, but after Daniel’s amplifier packed up petulantly during Winning A War, I found it impossible to hop back on the ride. Daniel’s guitar tech Robin was like the sixth member of the band on the night. Buying some time to change the amplifier, drummer Leo Margarit launched into a fantastic impromptu drum solo, much to the delight of the crowd. Leo and bass player Per Schelander had both been unwell all day, but the level of intensity and energy they maintained hid any signs of illness.

The other great crowd pleasing moment came during Falling, an improvised guitar solo played by Daniel as an introduction to the song the Perfect Element. Climbing the twenty feet to the top of the stack of speakers on the right of the stage, Daniel had the crowd in the palm of his hand until the mood was upset yet again by a technical problem, this time a broken string. Enter Robin again. The set concluded with The Perfect Element, leaving the crowd begging for more.

Four days earlier, a few hours after getting to Chennai, unable to sleep at 2 am, Daniel Gildenlöw, replacement keyboard player Daniel Karlsson (known in the band as D2), sound engineer Barni Johansson and I had gone for a walk around the IIT campus to take a look at the Open Air Theatre, the venue for the concert. Noticing that there was a ramp on the side of the stage, we hit upon a plan to have the band ride up onto the stage for the encore, a la Judas Priest. The only difference was it would not be on a Harley Davidson, but an auto rickshaw, a tribute to the band’s fascination with Indian traffic. After a few days of struggling to organise it, the plan came to fruition, and the band rode out onto the stage crammed into an auto rickshaw!

The encore was then interrupted ten minutes later by the first power outage.

The band returned later to their dressing room after taking their final bows in darkness. The festival prides itself on being smoothly run, and only the previous day, in a self congratulatory moment topped only by the Oscars, publicised its recent approval for an ISO 9001 rating. It reminded me of a line from Ricky Gervais’ now legendary performance at the 2011 Golden Globe awards. When speaking of the nominations for the insipid film, The Tourist, he said of the Hollywood Foreign Press, “They also took bribes.”

A band of Pain of Salvation’s standing cannot be treated like this. Perhaps in the future, IIT will realise that in order to organise a professional show, it should be left to professionals, not amateurs. And neither the band nor the audience should have to deal with the consequences of the communication gap between the faculty and the students organising the festival. It was an unnecessarily anticlimactic ending to an incredible tour.

  1. So the organizers DID fck up..

  2. Pretty much. While I do have to give them serious credit for bringing Pain of Salvation to India, it was disgraceful that band wasn’t treated anywhere nearly as well as they should have been.

  3. they play leneard cohen as well?!
    saw him in sydney recently
    oddly like Brian Wilson
    i quite like these old survivors

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