It has been a week since Zakir Hussain brought the Masters of Percussion to Colorado, and although the review is already in the bag, there are still a few things left unsaid. As any concert photographer who has been around will tell you, catching candid moments others do not get to see is often more exciting and thrilling than covering the actual event itself. From soundchecks to the backstage door to someone making a phone call, to be a fly on the wall as performers interact as people, sharing their road relationships, making each other laugh, is what those special photographs are made of and when you chase this dream for decades, these are the moments that make us shutterbugs giddy.
The gracious Zakir Hussain and the equally divine people who surround him gave Grateful Web the opportunity to do so and it was a pleasure to catch a glimpse behind the curtain. From the get go, it was easy to see that these chronos conduits have a connection that goes beyond the professional.
Soundcheck was set for mid-afternoon and one by one, everyone trickled onto the stage. First was Tupac and his early entrance was probably due to having the most equipment to set up and run through. Next came Sabir, wide smiled and talking on his phone. The wide shouldered but graciously spirited Navin followed and took to his riser set across from Sabir and just off to the left of Tupac. Eventually the solemn Abbos took his seat at center stage, focused on his instrumentation and acrobatics, stoic in his appearance, only a slight smile ever escaping his gaze. Throughout the set up and rudimentary tuning, these guys were chatting, making videos of each other, and even participating in Facetime with loved ones from the other side of the globe. Their inviting natures demonstrated their outward love for life and their warm emotion spilled over in invitation to the front of house staff who were getting them set up, exchanging stories and laughter with them as though they had been sharing the same hotels and van rides all along.
Eventually Zakir made his way in and observing him through the soundcheck, it was clear to see that he is a perfectionist when it comes to not only dialing in the perfect sound, but when considering the whole scene. At one point, he could hear the tiniest reverb, a sound most others on stage could not detect and called out the db level he thought it was at to Monitor Max and nailed it within 5 dbs of where it was located. At another point, he drew his concerns for the absent audience, stating that certain patrons would not be able to see him because of sound equipment and other obstructions. It was apparent that this man is about quality over quantity at every step and although he wants it the way he wants it, he is no prima donna. His goal is perfection in the moment and it was great to see that once the distractions were dealt with, he chided and chummed comically along with everyone else on stage.
Although most bands slot a certain amount of time for soundcheck and only use a fraction, Zakir made sure to use every last minute of the full two hours afforded him. Even after the run through was complete, it was interesting to see several of the members return to the stage for just a little more fine tuning, desiring the evening to be the best it could possibly be and from what these ears heard just a few hours later, it certainly was.
In closing, thank you once again Dennis McNally for the access and being the endless perpetuator of great music and thank you Sean Flynn for that warm expression and inviting greeting you carry. The both of you are huge contributors to making the magic happen. To Zakir and The Masters: thank you for allowing me to chase my dream on your stage and capture your wonder from the shadows. May the images I make do justice to the wonder and creativity that is the live moment you are sharing with the world.