Raghu Dixit – review

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Raghu Dixit is one of India's most inventive and charismatic artists, but this wasn't his finest night, for it seemed he had overstretched himself. Flying in at the weekend after an Indian tour, he went straight from the airport to OneFest, where he played a rousing set in the freezing Wiltshire countryside, before singing to Ed Miliband on The Andrew Marr Show. Then he joined five members of Bellowhead to prepare for this world premiere of his multi-media musical based on the Hayavadana myth. Changes were made throughout the day, so the opening performance inevitably sounded like a work-in-progress. But the real disappointment was that his voice gave out before the end of the concert.

The Southbank Alchemy festival encourages experimental collaboration between artists from the UK and Asia, and Dixit's new work perfectly fitted the brief. Seated on one side of the stage were his own band, with guitars, drums and flute, while facing them were Bellowhead's strings, brass and percussion. A narrator sat between them, telling a compelling, ancient story about a woman in love with two men; each new twist illustrated by three dancers. The music was a reminder that Dixit is a Bollywood composer as well as a singer-songwriter; much of it was tuneful folk-rock with an Indian (and at times Celtic) edge, with vocals shared between Dixit and Bellowhead's Paul Sartin and Rachael McShane, and a rap finale from bass-player Gaurav Vaz.

It would have been helped by more variety – such as the excellent frantic horror sequence – and by more exciting choreography or effects. Dixit was only able to demonstrate his own powerful stagecraft at the end, when he briefly switched to his best-known songs before being forced to quit. He has a busy summer in the UK – including a date singing for singing for the Queen. I hope his voice recovers.

• The Alchemy festival continues until 22 April. Details: southbankcentre.co.uk


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

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