It was no small billing.
Following an evening that began by paying tribute to the flying achievements of the likes of the UAE’s Al Fursan and the Kingdom’s Saudi Falcons, and Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut to visit space, where Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths asked a thousands-strong delegation, “Are you ready?”, the headline act had a lot to live up to.
As the lights went down, and almost 200 table lamps glowed in a fittingly runway-like assembly, American rockers OneRepublic started up what quickly became a stratospherically storming set that ran for barely less than two hours.
Led by multitalented frontman Ryan Tedder, the Colorado-born band kicked off with a moodily lit, rousing rendition of Stop and Stare.
Benefitting enormously from the 11th-hour venue change, which saw stormy weather drive the gala and gig from an outdoor location in Dubai Marina to Dubai’s sophisticated Coca-Cola Arena, it was hard to imagine a better setting for such an acoustically dynamic performance, from Brent Kutzle’s sombre opening cello solo at the start of Secrets to the pitched crescendos of Kids.
One of the most energetic displays came during the band’s performance of Love Runs Out, with Tedder singing and leaping his way across the stage with a tambourine, high-fiving the crowd and jumping off the piano he’d been playing moments before.
By Tedder’s own admission, many in the room weren’t quite sure who they would be watching that evening.
“There’s a least three or four of you in the audience who up until about 20 minutes ago thought they were seeing One Direction tonight…” he deadpanned early in the show. “Statistically speaking, there are three or four of you in every audience. One Direction, OneRepublic… All you need to know is we are the older, more handsome ones.”
The frontman stopped to speak to the audience at several points throughout the night, thanking the city for having them once again, and professing his abiding love for Satwa’s legendary Ravi Restaurant, revealing the band had visited earlier in the day.
“We love Dubai and we’ve been here a number of times. This city is crazy in the best way possible. It’s like, overwhelming sights and sounds, and it’s so much bigger than when we first came here almost ten years ago. It’s impressive, it’s amazing,” he said.
Among music fans, Tedder is well known for lending his songwriting skills to some of the world’s biggest recording artists, from Taylor Swift to the Backstreet Boys, Beyoncé to Timbaland.
Before launching into a rocking, pacey rendition of Adele’s Rumour Has It, which Tedder wrote, the musician declared the Brit “my favourite singer that’s alive, my favourite singer on Earth”.
In interviews with media, the band have often expressed ire at being asked which songs they’ve written that they wish they’d recorded themselves.
On stage at the Coca-Cola Arena, Tedder set the record on songwriting: “Being a musician is like being an architect. Sometimes you build a house and you live in it. Sometimes you build a house for someone else to live in it. Music and song-writing is the same.”
But it seems they’re back to working on their own house.
“When we put out an album, the year that we travel we usually travel around 400,000 miles a year, touring with that album. After ten years of doing that, we were basically flight attendants. So we needed to take some time off,” Tedder explained to the crowd.
“So we did that, we pieced together the bulk of a new album, and in 2020 we’ll be doing a world tour.
“We’ll be coming back to Dubai again for the Jazz Fest, so in February we hope to see a lot of you.
“It will be a new set, it will be insane. It will be as loud as the Burj Khalifa is tall.”
If anyone can live up to that promise, we – and around 2,000 Airshow delegates – are now convinced it’s OneRepublic.
Because everyone knows a stonking great night out ends with a swaying singalong to Oasis’s Wonderwall. And that’s exactly what happened.
Ready for “loud as the Burj Khalifa is tall”? Click here now for tickets to OneRepublic at the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival.
REVIEW: OneRepublic at the Dubai Airshow Gala Dinner
American musicians deliver on a storming two-hour performance at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena
It was no small billing.
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