At around 10 PM on a Tuesday night, Karsh Kale entered the stage at the lower Manhattan club for the release of his new CD, "Broken English" (Six Degrees) and began working the tablas. There was some feedback at first, but that was quickly adjusted. He then sat behind the drums and was joined by the rest of his 6-piece band, which included Todd Michalsen (vocals, guitar), Vishal Vaid (vocals), J.P Doherty (guitar) and others.
I was impressed by Kale's live drumming skills - he programmed them on the album - as the band eased into "Dancing At Sunset", which rocked way more live than it did on the studio version. Indian vocalist Vishal Vaid dominated most of the song, while Michaelsen sang the English-language lyrics and played clever licks on guitar.
The stage effects were very effective, projecting distorted images of the band in an improved Pink Floyd style on the club's walls and also behind the band. The general sound was a bit too loud during the first couple of songs, but after a while something was adjusted (it was either our ears or someone behind the monitor) , and everything seemed to fall into place.
In one of the set's better moments Karsh Kale handled over the lead vocals on "City Lights". On that song, his voice has an uncanny resemblance with of fellow Brit Sting (the influence of the former Police bassist is evident). The song was further enhanced by Vaid's vocal improvisations, which were not originally included in the studio recording.
Although the band sounded very tight on stage, it was clear that he mostly failed to connect with the audience - for instance, it was hard to understand why a musician as talented as Todd Michaelsen was relegated to sitting at a corner of the stage when he fronted a song or filled it with his guitar licks.
Clearly in control of the situation, Kale only addressed the audience a couple of times, thanking them for being there. The always expected band introduction did not happen, and the encore was kind of forced by the evening's MC, local DJ Rekha. There was only a rapport at the end of the show, but then it was time for goodbyes as the band headed back to the dressing room.
The fact is that Karsh Kale is an extremely good musician and song writer. The band is extremely talented, but they do need to develop a stronger stage persona when performing live - something the songs (not to say his growing audience) truly deserve.