Shreya Ghoshal review – masterful Indian singer has a voice like billowing silk | Pop and rock
Tipsy uncles swaying their arms, adverts for a local cash and carry, a child dozing on her mum’s lap: sold-out arena shows rarely feel intimate, but in Wembley, a masterful Shreya Ghoshal induces communal revelry.
Ghoshal is one of India’s most successful contemporary playback singers (the vocalists dubbed over actors in film musicals). Emerging in 2000, then the 16-year-old winner of a TV talent show, her transfixing voice – capable of being sweet and delicate as well as altogether more formidable – has become a dominant presence across the country’s film industry, and she now has 29 million Instagram followers.
Tonight, she glides around the stage amid pyrotechnics and some surreal backdrops (an incongruous snow globe, for example). Smiling coyly, she quips in Hindi, rousing people to clap and sing along, but also to laugh – as when she tries wearing sunglasses with her glamorous sari ensemble for some “swag”. And then there’s that voice. It cuts through the air like billowing silk, matched in weightlessness by the bansuri in her nine-person band. “Wow … just wow”, someone mutters a few seats away following a sublime rendition of O Saathi Re that crescendos into a blazing quasi-rock number.
Accompanied ably by male vocalist Kinjal Chatterjee, Ghoshal’s setlist is relentless, performing her classics (Barso Re, in tribute to London’s near-constant state of “monsoon”, gets a particularly enthused reception) as well as newer hits such as Ve Kamleya. She pays homage to greats including Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle with an arresting covers medley, before sitting behind the grand piano, playing as the audience tenderly sing ghazals with her.
This warmth seems remarkable given the scale of the setting, but Ghoshal says she wants to manifest the homely feeling she used to get at family music gatherings. So while a 20-minute break for people to use the toilets feels jarring to the momentum, it adds to the sense that she wants everyone to enjoy this.
By the end of the show, when she’s into glorious Bollywood showstoppers such as Ooh La La and Radha, people are running from their seats to get as close to the stage as they can, dancing with contagious abandon. Ghoshal beams down; it’s been a delight.
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