I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think anyone was prepared for the flood of emotions we all felt when Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki finally took the stage at the Jayamahal Palace last year and it was that same rush that us ‘Originals’ felt when Paavo and Tony came on at EZone in Bangalore (Term coined by Tony himself at the meet & greet in Mumbai a couple of days later).
I was fortunate enough to have the same bunch of Group Therapy loyals from last year join me at the shows in Bangalore and Mumbai this year as well, some of whom were crazy enough to do a stopover in between for the Delhi show too When we got to the venue in Bangalore, Praveen Achary was just finishing up his set and we were pleasantly surprised to see what they’d done with the venue. The erstwhile go kart track was transformed to a lovely mix of lights and sound, and from what I’ve heard so far, was the biggest venue on the tour. That isn’t really surprising considering Bangalore was where the movement known as ABGT was born. Over the past year, the juggernaut has grown to epic proportions converting casual listeners into ardent fans and their already huge listener base has expanded to include millions more from all over the world. As Praveen Achary was wrapping up, we made our way to the front of the crowd, which wasn’t so hard to do considering it was a weekday and most people hadn’t finished work and were still on their way. So we found ourselves a nice spot and made friends with one of the security personnel and asked them to take care of our Push The Button sign. Now, I’d fallen in love with Seven Lions’ remix of ‘You Got To Go,’ which is also a personal favourite from the Group Therapy album, but I hadn’t really followed his career since then much. I was a little bit skeptical about them having a Dubstep act open for Above & Beyond. All of that was thrown out the door the second the long haired California native hit play for the first time. ‘Tyven,’ ‘Days To Come’ and ‘You Got To Go’ all made an appearance, alongwith his single ‘Strangers’ with Myon & Shane 54 and Tove Lo, which has become a staple in most playlists by now. He ended with his remix of Above&Beyond’s ‘On My Way To Heaven.’ All in all, a stellar and pleasantly surprising set. The clock struck 8 and it was time for Tony and Paavo to take the stage and officially bring Group Therapy home. I think for most people who were there at that point, it was the happiest everyone had been in a while. I don’t think I remember a single moment during their set when our hands weren’t in the air or when we didn’t have a smile on our faces, all the while our hearts being filled with more and more happiness and joy. We of course, had gone there not only to watch the show, but also to try and get Eli, probably the biggest Above & Beyond fanatic I’ve ever met, to push the button. At different points during the show, each and every one of us had held her sign high enough for them to see from the stage, alternating with her being hoisted on to someone’s shoulders with the sign herself. That moment came, and she and one other lucky fan got pulled up on stage to hit play on the breakdown for the ever popular ‘Sun & Moon.’
They also reiterated at that point how well confetti goes with that track and out came the cannons that showered us in the usual glitter and sparkles. At the end, as custom at all their shows, Paavo – broken wrist et al, typed out thank you messages and left us with the now all too familiar visual of ‘Life is made of small moments like these.’ All in all a great show, and now it was time to move on to the next one. I landed in Mumbai the following night, extremely fatigued but as excited as I was the night before the Bangalore show. Post every Above & Beyond show that I’ve been to, there’s always been this empty, hollow feeling left behind the next day. Fortunately, this time around I had the chance to see them one more time, and this time around, at home.
We made it just in time to see DJ Pearl take over the decks and deliver her usual groovy, bassline heavy sounds. In addition to seeing the main act again, I was really looking forward to seeing what Seven Lions did with his set in Mumbai. Sanket will probably testify in his half of the post – An Emotion Called Group Therapy – Part 1 to the fact that every time someone asked me how Bangalore was, all I kept saying is ‘whatever you do, DO NOT miss even a minute of Seven Lions!’ Now, if I thought he’d done a good job in Bangalore, he completely destroyed Mumbai to bits! While the set was similar in a lot of ways, the energy he brought to the decks with his jaw dropping head banging skills and seamless transitions was just something else. He was even cheeky enough to the extent that he even dropped one of the biggest hits of another EDM act that was playing an arena gig in another part of the city that day. Still can’t put a finger on what exactly it was, but by the end of his set we were sweating profusely and were probably a tad bit tired even from ‘killing it so hard.’ At one point, we had strangers walk up and even ask if we could give them a hit of whatever we were on. Now, how does one share pure emotion and energy? Finally, the moment had arrived. Tony and Paavo took the stage, for what would be the last time on this mammoth India tour. The crowd let out a roar that, if you listened closely enough, could be heard resonating in the halls of Ally Pally thousands of miles away. Their set was reminiscent of the one they played a few a weeks ago at the Group Therapy Radio 50 episodes live show at Alexandra Palace in London. The haunting vocals of Zoe Johnston from ‘Alchemy’ was followed by Jerome Isma-Ae & Ilan Bluestone’s banger ‘Under My Skin,’ which in my opinion, should be a front runner for Song of the Year in any and all year-end countdowns. Mat Zo’s hit ‘Pyramid Scheme’ set us up nicely for them to remind us for the last time on this tour, who W.W. was. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s a reference to their track ‘Walter White’ (yes, the same one from Breaking Bad) which debuted at last year’s ABGT 001. That track was, in a lot of ways, a sneak peek into the new Above&Beyond sound, which can be heard on their more recent work like ‘Sticky Fingers,’ ‘Mariana Trench’ and their remix of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday,’ all of which made their presence felt during the course of the show. As the show wound down, out came the confetti cannons yet again and a couple of lucky fans from Mumbai too got to push the button on a song that’s probably become synonymous with Above&Beyond over the last couple of years. ‘Sun & Moon’ always manages to extract a response from the crowds like no other. As you look around, there’s a sea of happy faces, and for the so far uninitiated, a feeling that they won’t ever experience until their next Above&Beyond show (Yes, I’m THAT big a fan). They followed that up with ‘The Great Divide’ by Velvetine, a side project of Anjunabeats stablemates Myon & Shane 54 and Aruna. This track came as a bit of a surprise, to be honest. A very pleasant one, of course. The last round of messages flashed on the screen. Yet again we were left with the visual of that all too familiar message at the end of the show.
And then, quite unexpectedly, it happened. Last year after the broadcast went off the air, the crowd in Bangalore were treated to the slowed down, acoustic mix of Oceanlab’s ‘On a Good Day.’ At that point in time, the few thousand of us who were there were the only people in the world who’d gotten to feel something that I still struggle to put into words.
This year, at the last stop on their India tour, they did it again. Zoe Johnston’s eerie voice filled the arena. Like I said earlier, there were a bunch of us Originals from last year that saw them in at least 2 cities on this tour. Those of us who were in Mumbai on the night of 24th November, 2013, huddled together, tears streaming down our faces, mouthing the words, feeling a mix of emotions that we hadn’t felt in a long time. Just like last year, we stood there with tears in our eyes and Trance in our hearts, feeling thankful. Blessed. Happy. Fortunate. Grateful. Over the past couple of years, Group Therapy has become different things to different people. For some, it’s a sound, to others a feeling. To me personally, it’s an emotion that’s can’t be described by words as simple as happiness or joy. It really is something else. Now just as is norm, I’m going to end this post by quoting something out of Group Therapy, but it isn’t what you’re expecting. In the words of Zoe Johnston,
“Only a few things will we recall
With love, with gratitude…”
This is one of them.