After having canceled his East Coast tour due to pneumonia, Jai Uttal was back strong as ever for the headline spot Saturday night at Shakti Fest.
He filled the stage with master musicians — 13 or so, by our count, plus beautiful wife Nubia Teixeira dancing with the deities in the wings — and brought the crowd to its feet for nearly three hours, an exuberant joyride that had even Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein, who is rarely seen on stage, dancing with abandon at the back.
The set was classic Jai Uttal & the Queen of Hearts Orchestra in full-on heart-throbbing raucousness. Long, rolling chants that built to an ecstatic frenzy were punctuated by soaring guitar jams between Uttal, Yehoshua Brill on electric and Mark Gorman on bass, and playful call-and-response drumming between Daniel Paul on tabla and Visvambhar Sheth on mrdanga.
It culminated in a new composition — being played for the first time ever as a group, Uttal said — that wrapped the Beatles mantra “HELP! I need somebody” inside a funky reggae-style Maha Mantra.
Interspersed through it all were the kind of down-to-earth, open-hearted “Jai-isms” that we love about this kirtan rock star. Like his pointing out that Shakti Fest constituted he and Teixiera’s “first overnight date in seven years” without son Ezra Gopal (who declared to them just prior to the trip that he didn’t want to go, in classic 7-year-old fashion).
But the most spine-chilling moment of all for this writer, the moment that stands out not just from this set but from three days of world-class bhav-inducing kirtan — and for us captures the very essence of Bhakti Fest — is this one:
Simple, profound insight delivered in classic Jai style….unscripted, authentic, self-effacing, and straight from the heart. Just the kind of person you want to see in the mirror…
Good to have you back singing Jai.
More Shakti Fest Coverage:
Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance
Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First