Studio West at the Arts Factory, Jan. 11

girish-kirtan-4448-2315794306-o.jpgHow many concerts have you attended where the relaxed, fit people filling in space around you ask whether they’re blocking your view and the featured performer begins by offering you a blessing? So it was at Girish’s kirtan, a group-chanting event, at the Arts Factory. And the music filling this utopian scene? Outstanding.

After five December dates in California, Girish began the 2013 phase of his Diamonds in the Sun tour with a one-day stop in Las Vegas, in which he said he was surprised to find so many “real people” (translation: yogis). The Santa Cruz-based spiritual music celebrity packed the hangar-like second-floor space of Studio West photography, a more accommodating venue than the first-floor space of Blue Sky Yoga, which hosted the event. With a kitchen at stage left and comfortable couches against the back wall, it had the intimacy of a friend’s house; wood floors allowed for the hourlong, live-music yoga session that preceded the full-blown musical act.

The kirtan/concert was exactly as billed—a good balance of call-and-response chanting and band-centered performance. Girish alternated between the harmonium and guitar, accompanied by a drummer, bassist and backup singer, who played various instruments. The band artfully moved the crowd to crescendos of entrancing mantras, meditative instrumental interludes, and danceable funk grooves that got every audience member on his or her feet. Girish showed his jazz roots and world-music erudition just as much as his Sansrit scholarship and devotion to spiritual growth.

He blended tracks off his 2010 Diamonds in the Sun recording with better-known singles from Shiva Machine (2006) and Reveal (2004). For the first few bars of the song “Shiva Shambo,” you might have thought you were at a Red Hot Chili Peppers show during “Give It Away”—minus a few thousand people—so enthusiastic was the fan response.

Kirtan may not be your thing (for instance: It’s alcohol-free), but if you’re curious, you could have had no better introduction to the genre than this. ★★★☆☆

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