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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Meet the Dubai Jazz Festival headliners

James Blunt, Sting and John Legend are the top-billed names performing at this year's Dubai Jazz Festival.
James Blunt performs at Dubai International Jazz Festival in Dubai Festival City in February 2012. Sarah Dea / The National
James Blunt performs at Dubai International Jazz Festival in Dubai Festival City in February 2012. Sarah Dea / The National

James Blunt

If only James Blunt’s music was as dynamic as his CV. Selected highlights include listing his sister “for sale” on eBay (she later married one bidder), and serving with the British Army in Kosovo, where Blunt claims he risked a court martial by disobeying an order that “could have started Word War III”.

His public Twitter wars with detractors are the stuff of legend (sample tweet: @feebee02: If a man quoted a James Blunt song for me I think I’d vomit! @jamesblunt: And I’d willingly hold your hair back).

Last summer, Blunt reportedly married the eighth Duke of Wellington’s granddaughter, the socialite Sofia Wellesley. And he lives in Ibiza, clearly enjoying the high life since shifting 11 million copies of his 2004 breakout album Back to Bedlam (the UK’s best-selling album of the decade).

And yet, on paper he comes across like such a nice boy, penning perfectly pleasant pop that wouldn’t offend your grandmother.

He’s clearly popular here – this will be his third appearance at Dubai Jazz Festival in six years, so both Blunt and the audience knows what to expect by now and they keep coming back for more.

Wednesday, February 25, 10.30pm Support act: Christina Perri, 8.30pm

Sting

What can be written about Sting that hasn’t already been said? If you’re reading this because you don’t know who he is, then give your ticket away now because there are plenty of people who would go to great lengths for the chance to see this bona fide musical legend live in the flesh.

But in case you need reminding, Sting was the frontman of a little band you might have heard of called The Police, who sold an estimated 75 million records and subtly introduced elements of reggae and punk to mainstream music over the course of five trail-blazing LPs, released between 1978 and 1983. Since The Police disbanded, Sting has been knocking out largely successful solo albums and singles, including modern standard Englishman in New York, and has picked up an incredible 17 Grammys.

Since performing on Yas Island in 2013, Sting (real name Gordon Sumner) has kept busy touring with fellow legend Paul Simon and performing on Broadway in his poorly received musical The Last Ship.

Thursday, February 26, 10.30pm Support act: Lindsey Stirling, 9pm

John Legend

All of Me. All of You. How many times have you heard that couplet of late? But John Legend is far more than that airwave-jamming earworm.

First up, he’s worked with everybody – and we mean everybody – from legends such as Sérgio Mendes, Herbie Hancock, Sly Stone and Al Green, to contemporary scene-stealers Jay Z, The Black Eyed Peas, Rick Ross and David Guetta.

Legend got early breaks singing hooks for Kanye West and playing piano for Lauren Hill, around the time he took on the self-aggrandising name – he’s really John Rogers Stephens – supposedly earned because his music “sounds like the legends”.

Arrogant, perhaps, but kind of true – on his four solo LPs, Legend has pioneered a new stream of soul and R&B that somehow sounds both timeless and box-fresh at the same time. This was best displayed on 2013’s Love in the Future. A few handy biographical nuggets: before finding fame, Legend studied English and African-American literature; he was the musical director of an a cappella group; and he worked in business consultancy.

He once sang for Barack Obama, and recorded an amazing album with The Roots, titled Wake Up! He arrives in Dubai fresh from picking up a Golden Globe for Glory, the theme song from Martin Luther King biopic Selma.

Friday, February 27, 10.30pm

rgarratt@thenational.ae