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The pianist Lang Lang will perform with the Vienna Philharmonic at Emirates Palace on March 14.
The pianist Lang Lang will perform with the Vienna Philharmonic at Emirates Palace on March 14.

Rock stars of all different sorts

Lang Lang, "the Chinese rock star of pianists", Sir Bob Geldof and the great Indian conductor Zubin Mehta will all perform in the UAE this month.

Of all the Live Aid generation of tight-trousered philanthropists - Bono, Midge Ure and so on - Sir Bob Geldof is the one it's hardest to recall as an actual rock star. He so entirely inhabits the roles of entrepreneur and pundit that now, on the rare occasions when he takes to the stage, it's almost as bewildering as when Garry Bushell does it (the columnist plays in an Oi! band, loyally practising the dunderheaded punk sub-genre to which he gave a name).

And of course, Geldof never was much of a musical force in the first place. In his memoir, Is That It?, he admitted that the only reason his band, the Boomtown Rats, ranked among the million-selling legends on the Live Aid bill was that it was his party and he'd jolly well play if he wanted to. As the comedian Russell Brand unkindly observed at the 2006 NME awards: "It's no wonder Bob Geldof knows so much about famine - he's been dining out on I Don't Like Mondays for 30 years."

All of which is to say that the principal appeal of a live Geldof recital isn't necessarily musical. One might idly wonder whether whoever they've got on piano will be able to replicate that famous cascading intro to Sir Bob's meal ticket. The truly devoted may be pleased to recognise Rat Trap, even Banana Republic at a pinch. And of course, there's always the hope of some good-quality swearing and a bit of sniping at public figures.

But the real draw of the thing is surely the opportunity to bathe in the aura of nobility which still surrounds Geldof, and offer backdated support to his various political causes. This being so, it would be simpler, and certainly sounder from an ecological standpoint, simply to charge people to shake him by the hand. He wouldn't need to ship a lot of amplifiers about, then. Generations yet unborn would thank him for it - more generations, that is, than already owe him a big kiss. It happens that Geldof is playing at the Dubai Irish Village this week. If you go along, you could suggest it to him. Oh, don't mention my name - you take all the credit.

There's an unofficial double bill of art shows taking place in Al Quoz this week. The Iranian sculptor Bita Fayyazi is coming to the B21 Gallery, bringing with her a collection of her obscurely horrifying fibreglass sculptures - domestic figures distorted into Ralph Steadman cartoons. A baby screams until its face goes purple; a father balances his entire family on his raised foot. The provocative tone is underscored by the title, There Goes the Neighbourhood. Still, Fayyazi used to turn out terracotta armies of dead dogs (1997's Road Kill). If anything, time has mellowed her.

Across the road at The Third Line, mellowness is something the Egyptian photographer Youssef Nabil has boiled down to a rare essence. His romantic, autumnal portraits, hand-tinted in roseate and burnished tones to recall the great Cairo movie posters of the 1950s, are as meltingly wistful as the promise of long walks, friendship, maybe more in a personal ad for the terminally ill. This, by the way, seems to be more or less how he sees them; when I interviewed him last year, he explained that his work was inspired by discomfort at the thought of death.

"Well, it is a reality that we have eventually to face one day," he said, "that we're not going to last forever. We're not going to be here for ever. No one will be here forever. It's sad but it's true." Catch this ray of sunshine from Thursday. Finally, Abu Dhabi Classics and the Al Ain Festival have brought the great Indian conductor Zubin Mehta, with the Vienna Philharmonic in tow, to play two consecutive nights of Germanic music: Strauss, Schubert, Wagner, and a spot of Chopin on the side. This is such a starry piece of programming that the sometime child prodigy Lang Lang, "the Chinese rock star of pianists" as the London Times recently called him, takes second place on the bill on the night he appears. Not to be missed.

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