OneRepublic have been out of the public eye for a long while, squirrelled away recording their next album, Native, due out on March 26. And seeing as their headline performance on Thursday night was the opening night of the Dubai Jazz Festival, there was no small amount of anticipation. Can the guys who brought us Apologise, Stop and Stare and All The Right Moves do it again -- and what are those brilliant (but overplayed) tracks like live?
Any concerns were quickly set aside when Ryan Tedder and co stepped on stage at Festival Park, with the Dubai skyline spread out behind them — a perfect setting. (There was a slight chill in the night air, and the glance at the crowd found most covered in bright red blankets and red fedoras, two of the free offerings in the expansive, fun festival area; take the time to check it out.)
It did take a couple of songs for the band and audience to start moving to the same rhythm (although props to the great audience, in a mood to party and clearly having a good time), with Tedder’s crew slightly distant. But the songs, and the lead singer’s inimitable voice, did the trick, and although his vocal cords weren’t as refined as we hear them on the studio tracks, in this era of lip-syncing, it was authentic, at least.
The hits were in steady supply, with some fun tweaks. Apologise, for instance, ended with Tedder moving into Rihanna’s We Found Love, then back again. A cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth (with it’s refrain of “hey, children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down”) was a pleasant surprise. And for the encore (for which the audience actually stayed — well done, Dubai!), a Valentine’s special of Stand By Me, which merged into The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, which occasionally dipped into Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack.
Of Feel Again, he told us: “I grew up with a lot of gospel, for 12 years it was all I listened to,” said Tedder. “It only took about 20 years to come around again. This is our attempt at a gospel record.”
But with that new album on the way, there was always the balance of new songs needed. The band have been charged by critics in the past with writing songs that all sound the same (although I think fans may dispute that) but when a new song plays out, it’s not often an audience can get into it on the first hearing. Tedder sold it to us. One track, which I’m guessing is called Life In Colour, he said had been recorded in Johannesburg; the South African-heavy crowd immediately claimed it as their own, and the whole audience danced like they’d heard it a million times. The first single of the album, Lose Myself, had a similar effect.
The talkative Tedder was warm, knowledgeable and engaging, chatting about the weather compared to the last time they visited (stopping over on the way to Doha), when it was 48 degrees; having a Bedouin breakfast in the desert; and told us his biggest regret this trip was not making it to cheap and cheerful Pakistani restaurant Ravi’s. “The best food in Dubai, he said to loud cheers from the audience.
What made the crowd cheer even louder was the promise — 100 per cent, he said — that the band will come back to Dubai on their official tour supporting Native.