Hard Rock Café
Festival City's rockin' restaurant has new house band 2 Reviews
The hype ahead of Hard Rock Café’s re-arrival in Dubai was monumental. Nearly as monumental, in fact, as the towering, dilapidated guitars that still stand to mark the brand’s former home at the entrance to Dubai Marina. Still, the new venue promised to trump even that – by hosting the biggest guitar in the world. Alongside that mooted 36-metre neon monstrosity, there was talk of huge stars and big-name gigs, yet when
the notorious burger bar finally arrived in Festival City, after more delays than we can count and more hype than we could fathom, it was with a pop, rather than a bang. Was all that wait for nothing, or were there greater treats in store?
With the venue relaunching post-summer with a new house band, it was time to pay a fresh visit. On paper, Hard Rock Café should be perfect for Dubai. One couldn’t cook up a better marriage of brand and city: Hard Rock is big, brash, loud, brand-heavy and lots of fun – much like Dubai. The venue’s unashamed, in-your-face approach was on fine display during our visit. After dodging an invitation to visit the souvenir shop in the lobby (the first of many invitations throughout the evening), by the time we reached the venue’s entrance, the unmistakable blare of ‘YMCA’ was so loud and uninviting – and the sight of the poor staff lined up strutting those familiar poses so cringe-inducing – that my date refused to step inside unless it got quieter (despite my offer to pay for her meal).
When the Village People routine finally subsided, the volume crept down enough for me to coax my companion, now on the verge of tears, into the bar/restaurant. A veritable pro when it comes to dealing with women in such chronic states of distress, I ordered a sickly platter of gluttonous fried snacks, which contained 2,805 calories, according to the Hard Rock Café New York’s menu. My grinning waitress, weighed down by a uniform laden with jangling badges and trinkets, offered me the mixed drink of the day – to be fair, it was mixed well enough to make my surroundings palatable.
After taking in the surroundings, I realised Hard Rock Café really should be Dubai’s best music venue. It must be the largest room and greatest stage hosting regular live music in the city. With childlike anticipation we waited eagerly for the new band to take to the stage – but Start Your Engines never got out of the pits. Each member of the Anglo-Aussie quintet had a go at supplying equally mediocre vocals, while an egotistical guitarist splurged out frantic squealing solos lacking in any taste (and much melody).
Chuck in some awful, charisma-free stage rap and an ill-chosen set list (Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’?) and it was a pained experience. Yet even with a better band, it wouldn’t have been that much more fun. It’s so loud you can’t hold any kind of conversation, yet there’s no dancefloor. What are you meant to do, sit there and nod?
Hard Rock Café suffers from an acute identity crisis. We’ll say it again: it could, and should, be Dubai’s best music venue. But it’s in no danger of claiming that crown any time soon.By Rob Garratt
Time Out Dubai,
Time Out reviews bars anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.