Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival 2017

Dominic Beesley looks forward to the 15th edition of the music extravaganza

We all love a good party (even if some of us pretend we don’t) and the 2017 Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival promises to be one of the biggest the city has ever seen.

The event is celebrating its 15th birthday this year and organisers have put together a stellar line-up of acts who will hit the stage at the Media City Amphitheatre from Wednesday February 22 to Friday 24. But while the three-day jamboree might have jazz at its roots, it is also chock-full of international superstars.

1The jazz festival has a long and illustrious history in Dubai…
The festival started back in 2003, with a cracking bill of international jazz singers and musicians. Headlining that first edition were Stanley Jordan, Billy Cobham, and Marcia Maria, acts that drew in around 1,200 fans over the course of the three days. Since then, though, the festival has gone from strength to strength, attracting bigger and bigger stars watched by bigger and bigger crowds. Although the first event was held at the Media City Amphitheatre, in 2012 it moved to Dubai Festival City. In honour of the event’s tenth anniversary, the festival lasted ten days, but after three years at its new home, it returned to where it all began, remaining there ever since.

2…And it’s not just all about that jazz
Over the years, the festival has shifted its focus from solely jazz acts, giving itself a more universal appeal to music fans. While purists might argue this change of tact is to the festival’s detriment, you can’t knock the amount of top stars the organisers Chillout Productions have flown in. Spanning genres from rock to pop to soul and beyond, the likes of Sting, Santana, ELO, Kool & The Gang, John Legend, Toto, Deep Purple and, er, James Blunt have all graced the stage. So who’s on the bill in 2017?

3 Legendary crooner Tom Jones headlines day one of the event
Opening night (Wednesday February 22) will see one of the most recognisable faces, and voices, in pop kick things off as Welsh veteran Tom Jones brings his repertoire of hits to Dubai. Sir Tom’s singing career has spanned six decades, and he’s sold over 100 million records – not bad for a man who once worked in a glove factory to support his family. He’s had 20 Top Ten hits in the UK thanks to songs such as Delilah, Green, Green Grass of Home, Mama Told Me Not To Come and
It’s Not Unusual. Even if you’ve never heard his music (is that even possible?) you might recognise from his role as a coach on TV singing competition The Voice. He last performed in Dubai in 2013 and we’re delighted he’s back. But that’s not all...

4 Day two will see US megastar Mariah Carey take to the stage

So how can you top an old pro such as Sir Tom? With one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, that’s how. Mariah Carey has shifted more copies of her music than The Rolling Stones, securing a whopping 18 No.1 hits in the US – a figure only bettered by The Beatles. In fact, her first four singles each made it to the top of the Billboard charts, with later smashes including Fantasy, Honey, We Belong Together and Heartbreaker. She’s played Media City before, in 2004, so she’ll be in familiar surroundings this time around, with the technical issues of her NYE gig in New York just a distant memory. The pop diva bemoaned a lack of support on that fateful night but who will be backing up the headliners at the festival?

5 The three support acts you really shouldn’t miss

The Rad Trads were recently announced as the openers for Tom Jones. The New York-based band started out as four friends performing at their favourite bars in Brooklyn, and they’ve gone on to become one of the city’s biggest live acts. Meanwhile, Mariah Carey will be supported by American soul singer and guitarist Raul Midón. Billing himself as an “Eclectic Adventurist”, the New Mexico native has colloborated with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder. Also on the bill will be English singer Nathan Sykes, best known for being in the boyband The Wanted. After The Wanted announced they were going on hiatus in 2014, Sykes embarked on a solo career, with his debut single, Kiss Me Quick, going to No.1 on the US Dance Chart.

6 But it’s not just about the music
As well as live performances from a host of artists, there’ll be other stuff to do at the Jazz Festival, too. There’ll be plenty of food and drink options on offer and between the acts, you’ll also be able to browse the Arts and Crafts Village, which will be full of stalls selling handmade products by Dubai-based artists and artisans.

7 And the grand finale sees everybody’s hero Enrique Iglesias close the event

Bringing the festival to a close on Friday February 24 will be Spanish pop star Enrique Iglesias, who’s had worldwide hits with songs such has Hero and Bailando. Iglesias was last in the UAE in 2015, when he performed at the du Arena for that year’s Formula One after-race concerts. Known by his fans as the King of Latin Pop, Iglesias has sold more than 150 million records around the world, and we’re sure he’ll end the festival in style.
Dhs325 to Dhs1595. Doors open 6pm. Feb 22-24. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.dubaijazzfest.com (800 86823).

In Numbers

The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival

This year is the fifteenth edition of the Dubai Jazz Festival – the first was back in 2003.

Last year’s event attracted crowds of more than 36,000 people over the three nights.

Tom Jones, Mariah Carey and Enrique Iglesias have between them sold in excess of 450 million records.

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