Dubai loves a bit of ’90s nostalgia, and no-one here can deny it. This city makes a habit of dragging old-school acts out of hibernation and sticking them on stage with a microphone before having a pumping party – and it’s invariably brilliant fun.
Back in September last year, S Club 7 brought 42.8 percent of its original line-up to Dubai under the pseudonym of S Club Party – the name given when some of the members are absent. Three of the band belted out hits at McGettigan’s in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, reminding everyone watching how much they used to love the band’s can’t-be-described-as-anything-other-than-a-phenomenon TV series, Miami 7.
Earlier in the same year, Chesney Hawkes rocked the WOW That’s What I Call Brunch party at Le Méridien Hotel + Conference Centre, while 5ive thrilled a Thursday night crowd at Societe nightclub in Dubai Marina. And only last week, Societe welcomed the boys from 911, behind hits Don’t Make Me Wait, Bodyshakin’ and A Little Bit More.
But next week, Dubai’s kicking it up a notch, bringing in the Britpop-slash-alternative indie renaissance, and it’s about time. Following the success of concerts such as last October’s Madness extravaganza – crowned Time Out Dubai’s Best Gig 2017 – on Friday May 12, The Lightning Seeds, Toploader and The Farm will be heading to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, and it promises to be a night full of big tunes.
Top of the bill are The Lightning Seeds, the brainchild of Liverpudlian Ian Broudie. Best known for tracks The Life of Riley, Lucky You, Pure and monster football anthem Three Lions with Baddiel and Skinner, a lesser-known factoid about the band is that it was an entirely solo project by Broudie in the early days. Three whole albums passed before he even sought another musician’s involvement, putting together a live outfit ready to hit the road touring.
“It was just me, The Lightning Seeds,” Broudie tells us. “It was just me playing everything and recording everything; and then on the third album I played live for the first time. So I put a band together really just to play live.”
It didn’t necessarily work out the way he’d initially hoped, and Broudie admits to not being overly enamoured with the group once live performances became the norm. “I always tried to use people who were friends or people I’d worked with who were in bands. That line-up has constantly changed around me. Looking back, I didn’t really enjoy it that much, I didn’t really enjoy being around it.”
But, don’t be fooled. While it was tough at times, Broudie loved elements of the band, and says he’s now in a really happy place, both musically and personally. “A lot of the time, originally, it was great, and then it went through periods when I think we weren’t very good,” he says. “But you have to have people who are like-minded and it just feels really good now. It feels better now than it’s ever felt. I feel very lucky.
“I won’t be singing any new tunes, it’s not really appropriate. But I think it should be great – I’ll be playing a lot of songs that everyone knows and I think everyone will know pretty much every song that we play. And we’re good at the minute!”
Possibly the biggest track of the night will be Toploader’s classic cover of Dancing In the Moonlight. While the extent of the song’s success took the band by surprise, and to a certain extent came to define them, guitarist Dan Hipgrave insists Toploader are way more than just a trip down memory lane. “We don’t like to consider ourselves to be a nostalgia band, playing the old songs and living off the dream,” he says. “We are still creating music and writing new songs, and the thing we need to realise is that we are still young enough and energetic enough to do that.”
But speaking specifically about Dancing in the Moonlight, which is itself a cover of the 1972 song originally recorded by King Harvest, Hipgrave admits there’s a public perception that Toploader were a one-hit-wonder, one that he feels is unjustified.
“When you’ve got bands saying we’re a one-hit-wonder, firstly it doesn’t really offend me, but I do kind of dispute it because we had six other top 20 hits before we even recorded that song. Take that one away, and we were still a really accomplished band that had half a million record sales before anyone even heard Dancing In the Moonlight.
The Lightning Seeds
“It [Dancing In The Moonlight] was a gift, and most bands don’t know what it feels like to have a song that big. It’s depressing on one hand and a massive gift on the other. Now, we’re in a lucky position where we can go out every weekend, play that song and see how happy it makes people.”
Fans at the Irish Village expecting a purely nostalgic gig will be in for something a little different, though, because Toploader are putting the finishing touches on a new record, coming out in the next couple of months. “We’ve got a couple of new songs that we’re really proud of and we’re really looking forward to playing. The new album is probably going to be coming out in May or June, and this time we’re going a bit bigger on the commercial side. We actually recorded an album that we tried to do totally alone, about five years ago, and this time we realised we probably should get a label involved and go big on it.”
Another band exploring some new material after experiencing success in the ’90s is The Farm. While the band was only in the public eye for a few years, their biggest hit, All Together Now, is instantly recognisable – and at the very least familiar owing to its sampling of Pachelbel’s Canon.
The Farm’s biggest album, Spartacus, was a massive hit back in the early ’90s and saw the band go on an international tour supporting some of the biggest bands of the time. The Stone Roses and Big Audio Dynamite (led by Mick Jones of The Clash) were two notable names The Farm played with, but lead singer Peter Hooton has different views on what he considers to be the band’s best-ever gig.
“I know it sounds like a bit of a daft thing to say, but going on tour is knackering, and it can often be really difficult when you’re spending months away from home with the same people day in, day out,” says Hooton. “While there were a lot of great gigs, I’d probably have to say Elland Road in ’91 was the best. We were supporting the Happy Mondays and the connection with the audience was immense. Obviously we come from Liverpool, and they come from Manchester, so it was like a proper coming together of the tribes.”
And a coming together of the tribes it will be once again, with three of the UK’s top acts from the ’90s and early 2000s all rocking up in town to rock out once again. It’ll be like the last 20 years never even happened…
Dhs175. 6:30pm, Fri May 12. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, www.800tickets.com.