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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Dubai band take Bon Jovi support slot in their stride

Carl & The Reda Mafia, formed in Dubai 11 months back, is not short of confidence.
Carl & The Reda Mafia has been signed up by White Cube to release a debut album. Courtesy Carl & The Reda Mafia
Carl & The Reda Mafia has been signed up by White Cube to release a debut album. Courtesy Carl & The Reda Mafia

Some bands have to slog it out for years to get the chance to support one of the world biggest rock bands. For Carl & The Reda Mafia, it took less than 12 months.

The UAE-based group will warm up the crowd tonight before the return of stadium rockers Bon Jovi at du Arena – and their rapid rise is an aberration that has not gone unnoticed by the band’s frontman.

“I love Bon Jovi – I grew up listening to them,” says lead singer Carl Frenais. “When we got the news, I freaked out.”

So the big question – if he bumps into Jon Bon Jovi backstage, what will he say?

“I’d ask him if I could duet with him on Bed of Roses onstage,” says Frenais. “That was the first song I ever sang, even before nursery rhymes.”

A brave boast, but one that doesn’t sound out of character. This is not a band short of confidence. An advance setlist photo posted on social media appears to show five songs, plus a sixth as a planned encore.

Returning to the stage is a liberty rarely afforded – or called for by – support acts, but Frenais is having none of that.

“We’ll get the crowd moving, win them over, and they’ll force us to do an encore,” says the 25-year-old singer. Describing themselves as a “funk jam band”, the group list the Dave Mathews Band – who will headline du Arena next Thursday – as first among their list of influences. They formed only 11 months ago, after Frenais moved from India to work as a marketing executive. Among the first musicians he met was Egyptian guitarist Tarek Reda and the pair instantly clicked. Named after the principle songwriters, the group is augmented by Greek bassist Christos Asimakopoulos and Nigerian drummer Abimbola Durojaiye, who were dubbed “the Mafia” to “sound like Martha and the Vandellas”.

Following promising small-stage gigs at the Abu Dhabi Festival and the Dubai Jazz Festival, local talent hub White Cube signed the band to release a debut album, which is expected to be released by early next year. While the 25,000-strong audience expected tonight might be daunting, the band had some good practice playing to around 6,000 at last year’s Al Ghurair Centre’s Band Jam – a talent contest they won after just a few weeks playing together.

“We’re known as the band with catchy choruses,” says Frenais. “At every gig we’ve done, the crowds have left with at least one song in their heads they can’t forget.”

• Carl & The Reda Mafia support Bon Jovi perform at du Arena, Yas Island, tonight. Tickets from Dh395 at www.ticketmaster.ae

rgarratt@thenational.ae