Like any major event, a few hiccups are to be expected – and the second Dubai Music Week was no different. It started off on Wednesday September 23 with a few glitches – a live fan Q&A with headliner Jason Derulo didn’t take place as planned, with scheduling conflicts given as the reason. Those conflicts also meant the American singer didn’t take to the stage until 9.40pm, despite the audience pouring in from 6.30pm. But once the show got underway, Derulo made it worth the crowd’s money (tickets cost between Dhs295-550 for all gigs). The singer’s tour DJ, Jae Murphy, played an energetic mash-up of pop hits before the 26-year-old hit-maker arrived on stage, heralding his arrival by singing his own name – a signature of every performance– sending the teenage girls in the crowd into a frenzy.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Derulo belted out hit after hit with perfect vocal range, all while showing of his Michael Jackson-style moves alongside a group of limber dancers. He got the crowd dancing with hit songs In My Head, Wiggle and Trumpets, and won over the ladies present – many of whom seemed to have dragged husbands along – with slower songs such as Marry Me before bringing the show to a climatic close with the dance-inducing Want To Want Me. Proving his star quality, Derulo set the bar high for British songstress Ellie Goulding’s concert the following night.
With no support act, Goulding got things started bang on 9pm on Thursday. The petite singer quickly enraptured fans with expert vocals on electro pop hits Lights, Anything Could Happen and Calvin Harris collaborations I Need Your Love and Outside. The 28-year-old treated fans to a cover of Elton John’s Your Song early on, silencing fans who swayed along with lighters and phones in the air. The set came to an end with Burn and smash Fifty Shades soundtrack Love Me Like You Do – ending another flawless show.
And so it seemed only natural for Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto and his band Thirty Seconds to Mars to close the three-day festival. The group took to the stage a little after 10pm on Friday, hot on the heels of a bizarre fan Q&A with Leto, which followed a screening of Artifact, a documentary about the recording of the band’s This Is War album. During the session, participants were told not to take photos or ask questions unrelated to the film. In fact, all questions for Leto had already been pre-approved by him. Despite the restrictions, the frontman joked with the audience, poking fun at one fan who boldly wore a Batman T-shirt, and teasing, “I can’t wait for you to see this, they’re going to lock me away in a box after this movie comes out,” before letting out a deranged laugh, hinting at the lunatic Joker character he plays in the movie Suicide Squad, out next year.
On stage, Leto appeared to a throng of teenage fans chanting his name, wearing a white, plastic bag-like cape, while Tomo Milicevic faded into the background dressed all in black. The other Leto, Shannon, usually on drums, didn’t make it to Dubai due to “unexpected illness” – not that many in the crowd seemed to notice (what it must be like to be the other Leto…). And what a show Leto put on. He commanded the stage completely – with a little help from giant inflatable balls released into the crowd along with a shower of ticker tape – and he never once failed to hold the audience’s attention. He told jokes between songs and videoed the crowd, posting it to Instagram then and there. And the crowd loved every second of it.
This was a proper live show put on by a proper superstar performer. The fact that he performed stadium anthem The Kill (Bury Me) as a slow acoustic number, but still to rapturous applause, proved the man could do what he liked up there.
Leto took us all to his camp that night and one thing was for sure: the crowd really liked life on Mars.
the bottom line Dubai Music Week started a little shaky, but quickly found its rhythm with the great live concerts.