x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Smaller Desert Rock roars, Cirque leaps in

This year's Desert Rock may be short but the line-up is as ferocious and primal as any on record, with Motörhead headlining.

Cirque du Soleil is coming to Dubai on Thursday ahead of setting up there permanently.
Cirque du Soleil is coming to Dubai on Thursday ahead of setting up there permanently.

Over the years, all sorts of things have been proposed as economic barometers: hemlines, hair lengths, the male birth rate, the mean tempo of the singles charts. It's tempting to add to this list the relative heaviosity of Dubai's Desert Rock Festival. In times of plenty - 2008, for example - poodle proggers such as Muse, and Korn, the horrible bagpipe funk outfit, had their day. In the heady climate of 2007, the line-up went so far as to accommodate those New Romantic poseurs The Bravery. No doubt if the roller coaster had kept climbing into 2009, we would have seen Patrick Wolf and Emilie Autumn playing at Festival City, while the peripheral attractions of extreme sports and rides gave way to drama workshops and a penny-farthing display team.

Behold, the upside of the downturn: this year's Desert Rock may be short - it's shrivelled to a meagre one-day event - but the line-up is as ferocious and primal as any on record. No lesser masters than Motörhead are headlining, a band so concertedly toxic that, by their own boast, if they moved in next door to you, "your lawn would die". Support acts include the witchy Swedish metallers Opeth and Arch Angel, pulverising metalcore from Chimaira, and a little-known German thrash outfit rejoicing in the name Hatred. Oh, and the sideshow is a Viking in a plague pit, bare-fist fighting a gorilla. Bring it on.

Cirque du Soleil is bringing its big top to Dubai again, its first visit since Dubai World took a 20 per cent stake in the business last August. This month's run is intended as a prelude to a more permanent arrangement when the Canadian circus troupe moves into a new home on the Palm Jumeirah. Call this a test-run, then. At any rate, the company isn't taking any risks with the show. Alegria ("jubilation" in Spanish) is one of Cirque du Soleil's most popular touring productions, with a soundtrack that sat on the US album charts for months. It will, of course, be spectacular. But it should, perhaps, be more intriguing to see the fruits of their association with Dubai a few years down the line. This ought to do until then.

The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage's world music programme continues with a set from Yamandu Costa, the renowned Brazilian seven-string guitarist with the spectacular first name - it means, in Tupi-Guarani, something like "that which existed before the rivers and seas", which, when you think about it, is quite a frightening thing to call a child; it makes him sound like one of HP Lovecraft's tentacled Great Old Ones. Still, Costa is a pretty frightening chap. At 28, he's considered one of the greatest guitar virtuosos of Latin America, a land mass not short of decent players. You can see him doing his unfathomably dexterous stuff in the Mika Kaurismäki documentary Brasileirinho. His improvisatory verve and knack for blending a dozen Latin genres into a seamless whole means this is a performance not to be missed.

Thierry Feuz, the Austrian painter who dominated the Carbon 12 gallery's inaugural exhibition last year, is back with more of his lush lacquer works. Both his geometrical exercises and his flower paintings can seem anodyne at first glance: the intensity of their palettes is startling enough, but the designs seem merely decorative. Get closer, though, and they crawl with life. There's a strange gloopiness about them. Swirls and droplets of lacquer variously suggest deep sea creatures and space oddities. The texture is glossy as patent leather: these are luxury goods, albeit for very peculiar - perhaps, one should say, particular - clients. Get a lot of them together and the gallery becomes part high-end handbag boutique, part Martian sushi bar. And that, you must admit, sounds like a fun place to visit.

Desert Rock Festival, Dubai Festival City. March 9 (www.desertrockfestival.com). Cirque du Soleil, Grand Chapiteau, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai. Thursday-April 5 (www.cirquedusoleil.ae). Yamandu Costa, Al Dhafra Theatre, Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi. March 5 (www.adach.ae). Thierry Feuz, Carbon 12 Gallery, Marina View Towers, Dubai Marina. Tuesday-March 31 (www.carbon12dubai.com).