After five years Babbu Mann returned to the UK for a string of live concerts. SimplyBhangra.com were at Wembley Arena on 29th May to give you a first hand review of his London show.
We arrived at the venue by 7.30pm not wanting to miss a single second of Babbu’s performance. By 8pm the Arena was full and there was a sense of excitement in the air together with the smell of Jasmine hair oil, which could only mean one thing….
At half past eight Babbu’s secretary finally took to the stage to introduce the star. But it would take a further 10 minutes of listening to the secretary’s speech before the audience came face to face with the star himself. When Babbu finally strolled onto stage wearing blue ripped jeans, a white shirt and a trilby covering his straightened hair, there was rapturous applause as the audience stood from their seats to welcome him. Without saying a word Babbu hurled his trilby into the crowd. For a moment we thought we were watching a Michael Jackson tribute act rather than a Punjabi folk artist!
As members of the audience rushed to the front of the Arena to take pictures of their idol, Babbu joked “Je menu patha hunda thuhade mobile di ehni light honi aa, main promoteran nu kehna si ke hall dian bathiyan bandh kardo.” It seemed that he had already won the audience over with his humour and stage presence.
The concert started with a religious song, after which Babbu treated the audience to hits such as ‘Boli Utte Boli’,‘Marno Mool Na Darde’ and songs from the ‘Hashar’ and ‘Ekam’ soundtracks. There is no denying that Babbu is a good entertainer. His live vocals together with his energetic, but quirky dancing makes him interesting to watch. As well as singing, Babbu kept the crowd amused through his shairi (poetry) and encouraged audience participation by continuously asking “sher sunava ya geet?”
However, within the first half hour we couldn’t help noticing Babbu’s abrupt manner and criticism of just about everything. At one point one of the audience members in the front block stood to take some pictures on his mobile. Babbu singled out this spectator by saying “Baija baija, tere piche baitheya nu kuch ni disda.” When the man obediently sat down Babbu ridiculed him by commenting “England de pizzey khake ehna vada hogaya, ek hoke do jaaneya diyan seatan de baitha aa.” We couldn’t help feeling sorry for this poor man, who must have paid £60 for his seat (or £120 if he really was sitting on two!) only to be humiliated by his idol.
During the show one of the audience members was courageous enough to shout that Babbu should wear traditional clothes like a chaadra. Babbu rudely replied “Sabhiachar da theka assi Punjabi Kalakaaran ne nai leya aa.”
As it was a Punjabi concert we were expecting the poor security, bad organization and late start; what we weren’t expecting were such comments from a star of Babbu’s caliber. Although Babbu has a reputation for speaking his mind and being controversial some of his remarks were highly unnecessary. It seems that even Babbu’s fans aren’t immune from his bitter tongue.
Furthermore, keeping in mind Babbu was performing in London and has received so much love and respect from his British born fans he didn’t have a single good thing to say about England. From the people, the country and the food to the music and the DJ culture, everything received a tongue-lashing. Ironically, later in the show Babbu invited MP Virendra Sharma onto stage to say a few words. When Mr. Sharma spoke about Babbu and his secretary visiting the Houses of Parliament, anti-England Babbu and his secretary both called it a privilege. We would call that hypocrisy!
On a more positive note, one of the highlights of the show was when Babbu invited Kumar from Heera onto stage and sang a few lines from ‘Maar Chaddappa’ to him. Kumar returned the favour instantly by singing a few lines from Babbu’s song ‘Lor’. Babbu then sang the hit song from Ekam with the audience chanting after him “Teri lor crack jehi…”
The concert lasted three hours with Babbu performing hit after hit. In all that time he only left the stage for a few minutes to go and change his shirt. However, it was disappointing that he omitted popular songs such as ‘Uchian Imartan’ and ‘Dil Ta Paagal Hai’ which were being requested by audience members and chose to end the show with a medley of Bollywood songs instead. What was even more bizarre was that after singing the medley Babbu ran off stage, the band members started packing their instruments and the Arena lights came on. The concert ended abruptly without Babbu even saying a final word of farewell to his fans. Although, this may not have been entirely Babbu’s fault and may partly have been caused by the poor management skills of the promoters.
Babbu Mann is extremely talented musically and is very successful throughout the world not only through his music but through his hit films. At the height of success it seems Babbu has become complacent and started taking his fans for granted. Although he is a great performer he needs to learn from veteran performers such as Gurdas Mann, Harbhajan Mann and our very own Jazzy B. These artistes are just as talented as Babbu Mann. However, what differentiates them from him is their humility and their respect for their fans, which is evident when they are on stage. Once Babbu acknowledges this he will have all the ingredients needed to become one of the greatest Punjabi live artistes.
Review written by Manjinder & Sarb Mann.