"Fergilicious sweat". This is what Radio One compères promised us in the stage side area of Dubai's Media City amphitheatre. "I'd be scared standing there," said Sheena from the Real Flava Music Show. Indeed. The audience does not seem too fazed though; they are either teenyboppers or obliging parents: the prospect of a soaking can hold few terrors after a hard afternoon at the Wild Wadi Water Park or similar.
A picnic atmosphere prevailed. "If this place doesn't fill up, they will never cover her airfare," said Paul, a genial Englishman on holiday with his wife and daughter. He had a point. The venue was half empty. Never fear. DJ Bliss, the warm up show's other linchpin, is a pro. "Produce some noise," he shouts with an encouraging nod. But where is Fergie? Finally, some excitement: there is a tantalising phone interview with the absent diva. DJ Bliss asked about her ambitions. "I'm really a girl who got everything she ever wanted," she said, before murmuring darkly about the journey through hell that got her there. She is not kidding; if ever an R&B artist was her own Ike Turner it was Fergie. Who in the history of music would she most like to perform with? The answer, surprisingly, was Led Zeppelin.
She finally showed up half an hour late, but hit the ground running. She was wearing a hippyish orange summer dress and twirling an incongruous jewelled cane. From the opening number, it was apparent that her voice has a great deal more grit to it than her recorded output might suggest. Without pausing, she tore into London Bridge. The tone took another sharp turn with Clumsy, mashed up with soulful Motown.
Her outfits were surprisingly modest: leather trousers and a blue blouse for a cover of the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up and a gold sequined kimono dress for her hit Glamorous. There was a quick tour through the highlights of her Black Eyed Peas work before the jukebox vibe picked up again. The guitar part from AC/DC's Back in Black was drafted on to My Humps and then the intro to Live and Let Die segued into Black Dog.
Led Zep are currently looking for a vocalist to replace Robert Plant. The Duchess turned in an unexpectedly decent audition. firstname.lastname@example.org