RedFest DXB Thursday night review
Review: day one with The Script, Kid Ink, Tinashe, Rixton and G.R.L.
For Thursday night headliners The Script, RedFest DXB marked a third Dubai festival spot in five years, and a quick warm-up before they embark on a 52-date world tour which will keep them on the road until August.
But for opening act G.R.L., their 6.50pm slot marked a rebirth. Originally booked to make a regional debut at Bloomingdale’s Dubai Fashion Show last September, the plug was pulled following the sudden death of member Simone Battle just days earlier.
Touchingly the circle was closed when the girl group made their first live appearance since the tragedy at RedFest, performing now as a four-piece.
The night also marked the longest gig of the girls’ lives – featuring all eight of their songs – and the live debut of new single Lighthouse, a tribute to Battle. “We hope this song can inspire you if you are lost,” introduced Emmalyn Estrada.
Watching the four women well up with tears onstage was a genuinely affecting moment – broken suddenly when they launched into their closing smash, Ugly Heart. With a mix of solid pop tunes and a genuine warmth for the crowd, we may have witnessed a piece of musical history right here in the UAE.
The night’s surprise hit were Rixton. On paper, little more than a one-hit-wonder, onstage this Manchurian pop/rock/soul quartet are genuine stars-in-waiting. Or frontman Jake Roche is, anyway, displaying an easy charm and buckets of talent. He throws his guitar in the air, sings like Justin Timberlake, dances like Bruno Mars, and tells warm anecdotes about ex-girlfriends and being burnt in the Dubai sun (“my mum’s going to kill me”).
Describing the co-writer of their new single Hotel Ceiling, Roche coyly offers “he has ginger hair – and he’s not Ron Weasley from Harry Potter”. Ed Sheeran. When the power goes out and Roche leads the front of the audience through an impromptu, unplugged singalong, it becomes easy to imagine him where Sheeran is a year from now — a March 5 headline act on this very stage.
By the end of the set, closing with Me and My Broken Heart, Rixton had pulled out all the stadium stops – running the rafters, splitting the crowd into two and storming the drum riser with the confidence of a band who have been on the road a decade. In theatrics alone, they out-did the headliners.
After two rounds of breezy pop, things went darker and grimier with Tinashe. Off-stage, an utterly unassuming, five-foot-four (165cm), 22-year-old from Los Angeles, given a mic she is a full-on ball of simmering sass. If Roche, also 22, is a star-in-waiting, Tinashe has been sitting pretty for some time now.
Known for pioneering a gritty, less-is-more approach to R&B, onstage things are theatrically sparse, both musically and visually. Backed by an incredibly dextrous live drummer, her moody grooves are stripped to their raw, rhythmic essentials. Bathed in monochrome light, backing dancers are dressed strikingly in black, white and red. Closing with breakout hit 2 On, this was a breathtaking performance, loaded with edge, flair and attitude, which hopefully points at the sound of urban music to come.
The antithesis of Tinashe’s mature minimalism and crafted choreography came next from one-time collaborator Kid Ink. Perhaps more used to performing late-night club sets – they were last spotted here at People by Crystal in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in August 2014 – Ink seemed somewhat lost on the big, empty stage. Intent on getting “the party started”, he jumped around aimlessly, shouting tuneless rhymes over pre-corded vocal tracks. Every track broke down into a barrage of button-smashing electronic noise, his DJ/hype-man seemingly incapable of mixing.
Ever the bad boy, Ink swore onstage and tore off his vest to reveal his heavily tattooed torso. A divisive force, we saw young children fleeing with their fingers in their ears long before his closing hit Show Me, which originally features Chris Brown.
Things scrubbed up with The Script. As noted, they’re no strangers to the UAE – topping the bill at Sandance in November 2011 and Dubai Jazz Fest in February 2013 – and with every passing visit the trio’s anonymously stadium-filling quality appears to multiply. As does their Irishness – singer Danny O’Donoghue sports the Irish tricolour on his microphone and an “Irish Power” tattoo, while guitarist Mark Sheehan rocks tartan trousers. The band opens with Paint the Town Green.
It’s an assured performance, with hits Breakeven, Before the Worst, Superheros, We Cry and If You Could See Me Now all served up within the first seven songs, to a sea of appreciative smartphone cameras. But it’s hard not to note an identical setlist to the trio’s Johannesburg show last week, minus one song (a one-off Never Seen Anything “Quite Like You”, if you’re interested). When O’Donoghue takes a fan’s phone to sing Nothing down the line to her ex-boyfriend, you just wonder how many times he’s pulled the stunt before and how often they stay on the line. It seems Ibrahim, the young man in question, didn’t.
Amusingly, many of the young audience headed for the exits after a The Man Who Can’t Be Moved singalong, running back with genuine astonishment when the band re-emerge for a heavily rehearsed encore. O’Donoghue sprouted up from the VIP section, at the rear of the venue, and sped back to the stage for three more singles: For the First Time, No Good in Goodbye and Hall of Fame, where Sheehan did a fair job of copping Will.i.am’s guest rap.
Iggy Azalea, Bastille, Kiesza and Jeremih headline day two of the festival tonight. Tickets from Dh350 from www.timeouttickets.come
Updated: February 13, 2015 04:00 AM