Rotary Downtown’s Go Green Concert saw Madurai’s only rock-n-roll star back on stage after 15 years

Rain cut the evening short on Saturday. But J.Rajasekaran rocked. Performing on home turf after a decade and a half, he was on a roll from the word go at the Go Green Concert organised by the Rotary Club of Madurai Downtown as a fund raiser for laying plastic roads in the city.

The Zeal Rock Band from Chennai, with Rajasekaran as the lead singer, had obviously planned a feast of sorts for rock music lovers to mark his homecoming. And at 64 Rajasekaran showed no signs of slowing down.

The band focussed on creating a retro experience. Lead guitarists Jude Reeves and V.K.Raghunathan, Rajan on bass guitar, drummer Mynard Grant, Dayam Selvin playing the keyboard and John Bernard as guest singer strummed for a memorable show.

The youthful Rajasekaran struck an instant rapport with the audience, many his old friends and fans. They were happy to see him hop and jump and shake his hips “like before” as he took to the microphone with his favourite Deep Purple song “Highway Star”.

“I am lucky because the guys you see here dancing to my tunes tonight are all bigwigs who liked my compositions and the songs I sang when they were young. They retain their interest in music of 60s and 70s and I am able to go on because of them,” he said.

Madurai had a rocking band culture through the 1970s and 80s, when Rajasekaran had his own band, the Bluebirds. Rock shows were being organised regularly but gradually faded from the city's music scene. “I want to revive the rock music culture and bring in some vibrancy," said Rajasekaran.

This evening too, he rolled out an energetic “Maman Magal Manju”, his 20-year-old Tamil folk rock composition, and the audience seemed to enjoy every bit of it.

Of late, Rajsekaran has been giving only solo performances for NGOs, schools and other charitable institutions in Madurai. He dreams of bringing back good old memories of Tamil rock. He is planning a show in Chennai after Pongal featuring 16 self-composed Tamil folk rocks with a few English songs thrown in. “It is time I get more into Tamil songs,” he smiles. “Of course, much will depend on crowd response, especially in my hometown.”

“I enjoy singing evergreen numbers,” says Rajasekaran. The soft rock and rock-n-roll combination, he says, gives him room to play around. And also the audience is satisfied because these hit songs are liked equally by a 70-year-old and a 40-year-old. “And if somebody does not like the same song, he or she will surely like a similar song from the same period. That is the advantage of sticking to popular genres,” he says.

Though the band came prepared with two dozen songs and another half-a-dozen in reserve, they dished out a dozen-odd before the skies opened up. They played all-time hits like John Denver’s “Country roads take me home”, The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women”, John Elton’s “Crocodile Rock” and Rajasekaran’s favourite, John Lennon’s “Imagine”. “‘Imagine there’s no heaven…’ has become a permanent feature for our band because the members insist I sing it each time we perform, wherever,” says Rajasekaran.

With his accent and action in place and his rich voice flowing, young and old members in the audience could not but help tap their feet and clap their hands while some rose to do a jig and the lead singer came down stage to join them. The band paid tribute to Led Zeppelin, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Deep Purple. It was a decent turnout for a weekend night, and the crowd appeared to be in full form and in a mood to appreciate the band. It was nobody’s fault they were left wanting more.