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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Review: Najwa Karam and Saad Lamjarred bring vocal fireworks in New Year performance at Yas Island

Performances from Lebanese diva Najwa Karam and Morocco’s pop prince Saad Lamjarred set New Year’s Eve celebrations alight at Yas Island.
Najwa Karam performs at du Forum, Yas Island, on New Year’s Eve. Saeed Saeed / The National
Najwa Karam performs at du Forum, Yas Island, on New Year’s Eve. Saeed Saeed / The National

Vocal fireworks set New Year’s Eve alight at du Forum, Yas Island, with performances from Lebanese diva Najwa Karam and Morocco’s pop prince Saad Lamjarred.

Such is the popularity of the latter, and the enduring appeal of the former, that the event sold out just a few days after it was announced.

With both acts known to pack arenas, seeing them at the du Forum was a relatively intimate gig.

No stranger to performing new year shows in the UAE, the 49-year-old Karam delivered another standout greatest hits performance.

With the UAE such a big touring market for Arab pop stars, one can get easily bored watching the same artist half -a-dozen times a year.

But the 49-year-old manages to maintain her fan base because she is such a remarkable performer. Where her peers are content to remain static behind a microphone, Karam prowls the stage, ensuring the crowd is involved.

Then of course there are the tunes – most of which are thumping Dabka-inspired folk songs, such as Ma Fi Nom and Ma Bessmahlak, whose shape-shifting notes require supreme breath control, let alone technical vocal agility.

At the end of the 90 minutes, Karam proved once again that she remains the benchmark for most Arabic pop performers.

The 30-year-old Lamjarred opened the evening. He was undoubtedly one of the standout stars of last year, courtesy of his monster hit LM3ALLEM in May, which has gone to clock more than 230 million views on YouTube.

Unsurprisingly, the track was dropped mid-set and elicited the biggest response; the stalking hip-hop inspired synths and swaggering rhythm sound even better on stage.

Another high point was Mal Habibi, another example of his keen ear for packing Oriental earworm melodies within a tight radio-ready song format.

Lamjarred was also capable of slowing it down when delivering the plaintive piano ballad Enty, demonstrating there is some depth to his nasally vocals.

It is his multitalented ability, however, that is responsible for some of his set’s chaotic nature.

With Lamjarred adept at both delivering club stompers and ballads, a more thought-out setlist would have resulted in smoother transitions between songs – as opposed to frustratingly watching the stage hands periodically coming on stage to wheel in and out the grand piano while the DJ played inane dance music to fill the time.

sasaeed@thenational.ae