The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival got into the business end of the proceedings, unleashing its biggest acts over the closing weekend.
It was a rocking battle of the generations on the main stage: the UK’s Deep Purple headlined on Thursday while the Irish pop-rockers The Script closed the event on Friday night. Of the two, the winner was Deep Purple, hands down.
But first, to The Script’s performance. Augmented by a bassist and keyboard players, the trio put on a super-slick show with a set list that allowed equal play from all three albums.
The group may be described as similar to U2 or Keane, but tracks such as We Cry and Science of Faith display a hip-hop heart with some inventive drum work.
While earlier anthemic singles such as The Man Who Couldn’t Be Moved and If You Could See Me Now may seem too calculated, the closer Hall of Fame hints that the group has more to offer than pop impersonations. The expansive track sounded brilliant live, its sweeping chorus bringing everyone to their feet.
Throughout their four-decade career, Deep Purple explored many genres as a band. On Thursday night, with the line-up relatively stable, the group delivered a dazzling hit-laden set. Kicking off with Fire Ball, the singer Ian Gillan was more than up for it.
He wrenched those high notes out as he prowled the stage and did an impressive job of delivering Into the Fire’s classic, high-pitched chorus spot on.
For decades, the guitarist Steve Morse has been convincing the hard-core fans that he is a worthy replacement for the band’s original guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. His star turn should have finally converted any of the Dubai sceptics. As the sole guitarist on stage, he summoned up the fury brilliantly in The Battle Rages On and Wasted Sunsets.
His 15-minute solo performance preceding the latter, consisting of furious fretwork and coaxing synth piano lines of his instrument, had the crowd in raptures.
But one thing differentiating Deep Purple from their peers – and to some extent, the current crop of rockers – is their muscular organ sound.
While the use of the instrument in today’s rock tunes tend to denote a sense of grandeur and melancholy, under Deep Purple, the organ is a feral beast with riffs as muscular as the guitar.
Don Airey had no problem going head-to-head with Morse in Space Trucking, while in the closer Black Night, his swampy notes gave the track its signature vintage feel.
In the Jazz Garden, on Friday night, The Yellow Jackets celebrated three decades of music with a funk-fuelled set, while the All-Star Smooth Jazz group – including guitarist Paul Brown, keyboard player Oli Silk and trumpeter Lin Rountree – kept the crowd moving in a largely improvisational performance that catered to each of their strengths.
The young singer-songwriter J Lee deserves a mention.
On Thursday night, the smokey-voiced singer showcased tracks from her forthcoming debut album. Her sultry mix of jazz and alt-country songwriting hints at a wonderful emerging talent.