It was eight years ago on Tuesday that Whitney Houston took the stage at Dubai's old Nad El Sheba Club for a Valentine's Day concert.
It was a rare appearance, even for those years - one that took place as the whole world seemed to be talking about her battle with substance abuse and alcohol, and the problems she was having with her ex-husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown.
I was there because I loved her voice; I had the Whitney Houston Greatest Hits DVD released in 2000 and it was in heavy rotation.
She took the stage dressed all in white, speaking directly to thousands of fans in between a top-calibre delivery of her hit songs; she was sometimes serious, other times joking and laughing. One thing was clear, she was adamant back then that things were going to change for the better. A YouTube clip of the performance captured the moment, with the crowd cheering and clapping as the singer said, "I decided it was time to live my life."
Speaking about the rumours that would not go away, that were on the front cover of tabloids even as she performed, she continued: "I know that you hear a lot about Whitney and Bobby, but I can tell you this, we have a beautiful, beautiful baby girl and she's the most important thing in my life."
She had brought her daughter, then 10-year-old Bobbi, along to the Emirates with her. As she rocked all her classic songs such as I will Always Love You, I Get So Emotional and I Wanna Dance With Somebody, there was not a single person in the crowd who was not singing along. At one point, the star's voice seemed to shake a little and she said it was due to a cold she had been suffering from, following a concert in Russia a few days prior.
The concert was also a testament to the fact that none of her true fans were fazed by what they had read about her personal life. That night, it was about Houston's voice, which has inspired so many of today's artists.
I attended Whitney Houston's concert in Dubai. The concert was a small intimate affair with the weather being just perfect. It was very apparent even then that she was going thru a rough patch and was struggling to give it her all. I remember distinctly feeling sad seeing her in that state. A Diva under so much pressure and crumbling.
Nazneen R. Shafi
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