One thing I had missed coming to Dubai was there simply was not the wealth of high quality performing artists compared to London for example. However if I look back over 2007 the UAE is really starting to be put on the map for bigger superstars which makes a nice change from a lot of the “older” acts who were making a lot of appearances when I first arrived. For example this year, if you had the energy or desire, you could have gone to see – Pink, Kayne West, Mika, Fifty Cent, Jamie Cullum and Joss Stone amongst others. At least with my musical tastes – a fairly decent line up.
The most anticipated concert of the year was the first appearance in the country of Justin Timberlake. I will confess to enjoying his music and make an even bigger confession that I had seen him twice before on his “Justified” tour in the UK. So without question I was going to him in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The gig had been hyped up in the press fairly well and I managed to secure tickets online in a rather bizarre process, where you first “register” the tickets – then after receiving a confirmation email you then have 48 hours to purchase them. This went smoothly enough, though sadly the promise of a courier to deliver the tickets never materialised I was simply told to collect them from the box office at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Me and my friends did wonder why they staged the concert in Abu Dhabi – but on arriving at the gloriously luxurious Emirates Palace hotel with its vast grounds, it was easy to see it was a fantastic venue.
Wanting to get a good experience I splurged on Platinum tickets – which while expensive made me glad – as the seated area was a long way from the stage and the cheaper standing area was packed out. Here are some fans enjoying themselves just before the gig:
I went with two good friends of mine – sadly however one did not have a platinum ticket but had managed to get a last minute seated ticket. In the melee that was the queue to enter the grounds there were a few people trying to get rid of unwanted tickets or buying tickets to get in with their friends. These were genuine people and not touts – I have yet to see any in the UAE (yet). Then in the space of a rather manic ten minutes my friend had managed to sell her seated ticket for the face value of 500AED and then purchase a Platinum ticket for a bargain 600AED (face value 900 AED) and to our delight was able to join us for the evening. We were so happy we had to record this amazing stroke of luck:
The inevitable traffic jams and queues to get in led to a delay starting the concert. But it was only five minutes, and and at just after 9.30pm the show started and the crowd went bananas. Timberlake opened up with “Cry Me a River” his signature song from the first album and one of my favourites. The light show and stage that he came with was really impressive – this was taken in the opening minute:
Throughout the show a couple of things were really clear to me. Firstly it is easy to see that the talent he showed a few years ago has really come to fruition. The songs were played with underlying sophisticated blend of rock, gospel, jazz and blues – far away from his original pop roots. This coupled with his desire to play nearly every instrument over the course of the evening, as well as his his great dancing and ability to deliver a tune – the crowd were in for a real treat that evening. Here is Timberlake taking a short break to speak with humilty and thank the “resort”, his band, his roadies and just about everyone else for what would be the last show in this current world tour:
The show last just under two hours and I certainly felt I had got value for money. He played many of his most popular songs “My Love”, “Senorita”, “Sexyback” to name but a few – each with a little musical twist. My two favourite surprise bits of the show was the cover of the old INXS song “Need you tonight” (incidentally who I also saw over 18 years ago!) and the rift by Nirvana from “Teen Spirit” (who I also saw over 15 years ago).
There was a little bit of emotional farewell to his band at the end of the gig – I can imagine that after 60 shows all around the world you are going to get to know that group of people rather well. He showed good grace and still gave one fantastic performance – and the effort was clear for all to see as he was drenched in perspiration despite it being a perfect Abu Dhabi evening – cool, slight breeze and 23c.
Here he is giving his last farewell:
I had been looking forward to the last couple of weeks for a long time. The Rome party, the Rugby 7s and now Justin Timberlake all in a rather mad 14 days. It has been tiring but overwhelmingly fun. Despite all of this – a good friend of mine once told me “Aaron, it is not what you are doing, but whom you are doing it with”. Looking at the picture below of me with my concert mates – I could not agree more.