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Music in the UAE: 2012 in review

It was a bumper year of musicians in the UAE as some of the biggest acts came to town


The year in music has been anything but quiet. We let the stars talk us through each show, concert and performance of 2012.


February 2: Arrested Development, Chi Garden, Dubai. The group’s first album sold more than five million copies. “I think rap has lost its way in a lot, to be honest,” said lead singer Speech. “Not just in terms of politics but in the way this art form can affect the youth culture and the world.”


February 17/18/24/25: Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival. The only ‘new boy’ on the headline list was Jason Mraz this year who joined regulars Jools Holland, James Blunt and James Morrison. Scottish singer Sandi Thom and band Spyro Gyra supported Mraz at the new Festival Park venue. “I feel like I’m a one-way tweeter,” said Mraz, so obviously uninspired by even the mention of the social network. “I feel like I’m defacing the bathroom wall. I walk into the Twitter lounge, write my quote, post my comment, tell my joke, and walk back out again.” Holland was his usual outspoken self saying: “The problem with shows like the X Factor is they make it hard for us to appreciate true musicians sometimes.”


March 6: Madinat Jumeirah. In one of his first interviews since it was announced he would represent the UK at the Eurovision song contest, Engelbert Humperdinck was “confident” ahead of his Dubai show. The 75-year-old crooner, didn’t make the top runners at the internationally-televised show in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 26.


March 8: Duran Duran at The Sevens. Self-confessed playboy lover Simon Le Bon surprised us all offering up a recipe for a successful marriage. “You have to want to be married,” he said. “It’s actually as simple as that.”


March 9: Snow Patrol at Sandance. The first Sandance event of 2012 was a giant bottleneck of traffic which eventually resulted in watching the mighty Snow Patrol. M People, DJ Yoda, Calvin Harris and DJ Erick Morrillo also performed to more than 12,000 fans on the sands.


March 29: Elton John plays Yas Arena, Abu Dhabi. “I am so fortunate to have had that great live moment in November 1974 with John Lennon, when he joined us onstage at Madison Square Garden and sang Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I Saw Her Standing There with us,” he told tabloid! It was sadly to be the former Beatle’s last public performance. John did his usual two-hour set. The audience tired before he did.


March 31: Toni Braxton. Dubai World Cup, Meydan. Ahead of her performance at the Dubai World Cup, the singer, actress, businesswoman and reality TV star told tabloid! about her ‘big sister’ Whitney Houston. “I got into the business because of her. I wanted to be just like her. When I finally got to meet her, I remember she told me, ‘You know Toni, some days you’re not gonna wanna be a star. But you’re always a star,’” she said.


April 1: Estelle. XL Beach Club, Habtoor Grand, Dubai. Her new album All Of Me just on the shelves, Estelle was chatty more than four years after her international breakthrough hit American Boy and album Shine. “I have been living and writing and this is what has formed All Of Me.”


April 6: Atelier Dance Arena Music Festival. Dubai Sports City International Stadium. The line-up included Ne-Yo, Leona Lewis, Taio Cruz, Jay Sean, Natasha Bedingfield and Skylar Gray. The acts then hit the city’s clubs for many a club appearance.


April 6: Sandance, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai. Kaiser Chiefs, Robin S, Soul II Soul, Zane Lowe and Rizzle Kicks provided the line-up for the beach festival. KC’s bassist Simon Rix was silenced when we told him the band was playing on the same line-up as Soul II Soul. “I am... quite overwhelmed by that. I think that’s cool. I hope we get to meet them. I remember them growing up.”


April 12: Eagles at The Sevens, Dubai. The Eagles played country-rock standards, including Life in the Fast Lane and the more timeless Desperado. Don Henley had good things to say about today’s younger stars. “Taylor Swift speaks to the angst and the insecurities of teenage girls and they relate to her message quite strongly. And young boys like her because she’s very pretty,” he adds. “She’s a good kid. She has an interesting mix of confidence and humility.”


April 20: Hard Rock Café. Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama tell tabloid! their “alternative temperaments” is the key to their success.


April 20 and 21: Brit rock sensations The Kooks headline the sixth Chill Out Festival at Dubai Media City. The lads had support from American hip hop legends De La Soul and French-Algerian artist Rachid Taha among others.


June 3 and 4: Madonna at Yas Arena. It was the concert we were all waiting for. And wait she made us. Arriving on stage more than 45 minutes late on both nights Madonna had no apology but instead performed her MDNA show which certainly raised a few eyebrows. A gun massacre and seductive rendition of Like A Virgin the most worrying.


June 22: Dubai World Trade Centre. Founder and lead singer of goth-inspired rock band Evanescence Amy Lee didn’t mince her words. “Hell no,” said the straight-talking Lee on whether or not Ben Moody, the band’s now-departed co-founder, guitarist and writer of their hit song My Immortal, was ever missed.


July 13: Labrinth plays Etoiles, Emirates Palace. Often referred to as “the guy who did those tracks with Tinie Tempeh”, he was a tad defensive. “We’re not a gay couple you know,” he snapped when we asked once again about his relationship with grime star Tinie.


August 24: Murder On The Dancefloor singer Sophie Ellis-Bexter plays Movida as part of their post-Eid line-up of events.


September 20: Easily one of the best-paid wedding singers out there, Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger was reportedly paid $1 million (Dh3.67 million) for a 45-minute concert celebrating a 400-couple mass wedding at the Dubai World Trade Centre. “It’s easy money,” said one report. Hosts Emirates NBD declined to comment.


October 5: Dxb Music Festival, Festival Park, Al Badia Festival City . “It is important to keep it authentic... keep it real,” Far East Movement’s Kev Nish told us. Playing a tribute to one of their inspirations — the Beastie Boys and turning up the love for the fans, FEM delivered. Afrojack and Kaskade also performed.


October 5: Tenors, Sébastien Izambard, Carlos Marín, Urs Bühler and David Miller belted out Mama, Don’t cry for me Argentina, My Way, Somewhere, Passera and more as Il Divo performed its Wicked Game Tour at Dubai World Trade Centre.


October 12: The Fray at Sandance. “We are going to give it everything we have. It will be a show to remember,” said the guys who were supported by Matt Kearney among others. “Dubai is like a mini version of Las Vegas and we all know what happens in Vegas.”


October 19: 50 Cent headlines Atelier Live at Meydan. The American rapper chatted to tabloid! about Broadway shows, hanging out with underprivileged children in Somalia and Nairobi and crying over hand-me-down clothes at his grandmother’s. Duffy was billed but didn’t show and support acts included Nelly, Ciara, Craig David, Erick Morillo and DJ Antoine.


October 18-20: Gulf Bike Week. “Before every performance we crank the music up in the dressing room with whatever gets us amped up for the night. Do vocal warm-ups and make sure we’ve got it for the night. And then just go out there on stage and have fun!” Chris Daughtry said. Daughtry played alongside Megadeath and Razorlight.


October 26: Lumidee at Crystal. He opened the Eid celebrations before the smooth sounds of Craig David, who promised to “bring the stage to life” followed the next night.


October 26: Enrique Iglesias at Dubai World Trade Centre. Let’s just say he wasn’t easy to get much out of. “But wouldn’t the lovely Anna Kournikova like to be Mrs Iglesias one day,” we asked. “I’m not sure, I’d have to ask her first before answering that,” he quipped sarcastically. The show was a big hit with fans.


November 3: Boy George at Cipriani and Tyga at Mo*vida in Abu Dhabi.


November 1: at Nasimi Rocks, Dubai. “His mum would make Will stay home,” laughed Ap about his bestie “I don’t know if he liked me. I was a kid who couldn’t speak English but we seemed to always manage to talk somehow.


November 1: Akon headlines in Abu Dhabi. The Smack That singer joined Beats on the Beach line-up with Missy Elliot, Tamer Hosni and Mel C


November 2: CeeLo. After our seventh one-word answer from the man I expected to be as big in personality as the music he makes, tabloid! called Green on his less-than enthusiastic interview style. “What do you mean?” said Green, a little shocked he’d been asked about his lack of conversation. Luckily his gig made up for it as he gave everything on stage for his fans.


November 2: Kylie. A perfect mix of old and new, the oldest Minogue had the crowd going from the first song, Wow, as she strutted her stuff in a slightly questionable blue jumpsuit (but yes, annoyingly the 44-year-old even pulled that off).


November 3: Nickelback at Yas Arena. “He seems very, very, very happy right now, as happy as I’ve ever seen him,” Nickelback’s bassist Mike Kroeger said of his brother Chad’s relationship with fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne. The camaraderie was evident when they took the stage as part of the Yasalam after-race concerts — an energetic rock show complete with expletives, drinking on stage and devil horns.


November 4: Eminem at Yas Arena. What a show! The rapper gave it everything as he took to the stage for final night of Yasalam.


November 9: Sandance featuring Stereophonics, Benny Benassi, Labrinth, Newton Faulkner and Marco V. The UAE was the first crowd to hear Stereophonics’ single, In A Moment, live according to the lads. “The song is about finding some hope in life,” said 38-year-old frontman Kelly.


November 16: Emirates Golf Club. More than 10,000 people turned out to catch slightly older versions of Haddaway, Go West, No Mercy, Snap, Culture Beat, La Bouche and Jenny from Ace of Base and the tunes which made them famous.


November 22: J-Lo, Dubai Media City. Lopez played the hits, thankfully delving into her back catalogue for the tracks we loved from the ’90s — a highlight being I’m Real with Ja Rule — and coming right up to date with the night’s finale, Dance Again, those leaving for early taxis missing the glitter-fuelled encore with boyfriend Casper Smart.


November 23: Gotye’s performance at the Dubai World Trade Centre was the anti-thesis of a typical concert: no screaming young girls, no people crowding the barriers, no sweat, the band were dressed decently and the lead singer hung around at the back.


November 30: The Jacksons Unity Tour, Adnec, Abu Dhabi. Ahead of their UAE gig Marlon, Tito and Jacky talked showtime, childish pranks and life without brother Michael.


December 6: Macy Gray plays at The Irish Village. “The gig will be an awesome show,” said Gray. “Very different. Very refreshing. Not your average concert. It’s pretty wild and you probably won’t forget it for a few days.” The interview with tabloid! was just as “different”.


December 7: Al Jarreau, Jumeirah Beach Hotel. “The opportunity to sing for old friends or new friends, like those who will see me perform in Dubai for the first time in my life, that is the best feeling of all. The audience is always my biggest inspiration,” the seven-time Grammy Award-winner told tabloid!


December 8: Usher and Katy Perry. World Parachuting Championships, Meydan. Competing with Felix Baumgartner at a parachuting event is no mean feat, but Katy Perry and Usher pulled it off successfully. “Just thought I’d drop in for a party,” Perry quipped as she landed on stage in a cartoonish leotard with parachutes on her cap sleeves. Another stunning performance from US r’n’b star Usher, who returned to Dubai after a triumphant concert last year to again charm the crowd with his Michael Jackson-style dance moves, spot-on vocals (like Perry, he sang live), and a tracklist that got everyone hot under the collar.


December 11: Chris Brown, Skydive Dubai and World Parachuting Champs, Meydan. The US singer more than redeemed himself after a disappointing show last year. Opening his concert with the top ten hit Beautiful People, he segued into the David Guetta hit with Lil Wayne I Can Only Imagine and then Forever.


December 28: Nicki Minaj in Dubai. It doesn’t get much bigger than Nicki Minaj as the rapper/singer makes her UAE debut in Dubai


December 31: Snoop Dogg returns to the UAE to round off the year at Meydan in Dubai. Also Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora lead celebrations at Sandance, Nasimi Beach at Atlantis, The Palm.