From classic 1980s tunes, disconcerting 1990s pop and the latest house beats, music fans had a lot to pick from: the du World Music Festival, the Duran Duran concert and Sandance all took place across the city over two days.
Du World Music Festival features wow show from Amr Diab
Three decades of music could be heard reverberating across Dubai this past weekend. From classic 1980s tunes, disconcerting 1990s pop and the latest house beats, music fans had a lot to pick from: the du World Music Festival, the Duran Duran concert and Sandance all took place across the city over two days.
Friday night saw the Arabic pop king Amr Diab take the Burj Park stage, as part of the du World Music Festival. The Egyptian has been a dominant part of the Arab music scene for more than 25 years and the crowd reflected that, with teenagers mixing it up with adult fans. There were even toddlers spotted with their parents at the fan pit.
Coming on stage with his 15-piece band, Diab told the audience he planned a loose set and “will keep it upbeat – we will play all the good ones, don’t worry”.
Aside from his irresistible hooks, the pleasure of Diab’s hit-laden set was that fans got to appreciate his expansive musical outlook, which he has possessed since first emerging on the scene in 1985.
Not content with the constraints of Arabic pop, Diab married his husky voice with Mediterranean rhythm and Latin flavours.
El Layla Di was a straight-up bossa nova tune, while Habibi – which Diab dedicated to the Gipsy Kings, who performed at the festival on Thursday – made use of the three flamenco guitarists Diab had on stage. With Amarein, Diab’s versatile voice took centre stage as he lobbed from steady to high-pitched wailing, enlivening the crowd, which maintained its good cheer to the end.
Those with more vintage music and fashion tastes headed for Dubai’s Sevens Stadium on Thursday night for the return of the 1980s giants Duran Duran.
Hot pink shirts and all-white suits were the order of the evening as a 7,000-strong crowd greeted the group with enthusiasm. With Dubai being the first show of Duran Duran’s Asian tour, the group’s performance was energetic and full of sparkle, courtesy of the singer Simon Le Bon’s disco-tastic shirt and the keyboardist Nick Rhodes’s sequinned Blues Brothers suit.
While the melodramatic and sombre Before the Rain was an odd choice for an opener, it at least signalled that Le Bon’s voice was back in order, after strained vocal cords caused the cancellation of the group’s world tour last year. Le Bon should in fact give a healthy cut of his performance fee to his voice therapist, as he was near pitch-perfect throughout the evening.
One could have understood if he was gun-shy of going full throttle on Planet Earth or The Reflex’s soaring choruses, but the singer gave his all, his voice rising above Rhodes’s synth shards and John Taylor’s bobbing bass lines.
The group’s latest resurgence is largely responsible for its latest release All You Need Is Now. Indeed, the new songs fit well within their older material. It was easy to see why Girl Panic, with its blaring synths and Le Bon’s air-raid siren of a chorus, elicited the biggest response of the new offerings. The song is basically an updated version of Girls on Film, albeit more frenzied and saucy.
It’s a shame the group only played three songs from the new album, as tracks like the punchy Blame the Machines and the ballad Leave a Light On could have made the performance more rounded.
Then again, with so many hits to choose from, it would have been tough deciding which songs wouldn’t make the list.
Still, there were some odd additions and glaring omissions: Save a Prayer and Electric Barbarella were axed, while the meandering instrumental Tiger Tiger and Reach Out for the Sunrise from the neglected album Astronaut were performed.
Despite these minor missteps, the band’s enthusiasm for the new and old material was obvious.
In a tender moment, Le Bon dedicated the regal ballad Ordinary World “to the people of Syria”, before the group stormed home with Wild Boys, Girls on Film and Rio.
The latest Sandance instalment at Nasimi Beach made its first real foray into 1990s pop on Friday with the arrival of M People. Playing in the afternoon, Heather Small and the band played a smattering from their back catalogue, including Moving On Up and Search for the Hero.
Of course, the night belonged to the Irish rockers Snow Patrol, whose anthem-filled set was embraced by the masses.
Calvin Harris fans, dismayed at missing out on the sold-out festival, had the opportunity to see him once again, as he also spun the decks during the wee hours of Saturday morning at the N’dulge nightclub.
• For Duran Duran’s complete set list, visit our Scene & Heard blog
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