Sir Elton John carried his candle into the darkness of an Abu Dhabi night
Sir Elton John, the legendary musician and flamboyant performer, was in Abu Dhabi recently. In the lavish grounds of the ostentatious Emirates Palace Hotel, he enthralled a capacity crowd of over fifteen thousand fans. He kept us spellbound with his music in a nonstop performance that lasted for approximately three hours.
I was there. I flew down from Jordan and two days before the concert I spent getting reacquainted with Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
These two emirates are not the same ones I lived in a few years ago, especially the former. It has undergone such a tremendous makeover that one can be forgiven for mistaking it for an alien city. All in all, it is a bustling metropolis that is hell-bent on construction activity with a kind of manic drive that can make a visitor feel exhausted.
I drove by one building in the morning that had fourteen storeys, and when I went past it in the evening, it was standing fifteen storeys tall! I swear I am not making it up, this is the complete truth, and I am still recovering from the shock.
So, with all this obsessive-compulsive architectural creation, one ends up spending large chunks of one’s time on the road, caught up in traffic snarls. Commuting from one part of town to another, what ordinarily would take us ten minutes in the good old days, can now take anything from between two to four hours.
Nevertheless, the brand new swanky hotels and the shiny malls are impressive, I must admit. The dancing water fountains, the multi-cuisine eateries, the designer boutiques, the tall glass and chrome structured buildings, the water-front facing cafés — they are all pleasing to the eye. Also, with the town spreading outwards, the distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi now seems smaller.
Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi is reputed to be the most expensive hotel ever built, costing over 3 billion US dollars. The interior of the hotel has real gold-leaf inlay work.
In the lush lawns of this opulent hotel, Sir Elton John, wearing a red shirt, with pinkish red flowers on the sleeves, and a black suit, opened the concert at 9pm, on the dot. The spotlight was on his fingers flying on the piano keys and his magnetic voice mesmerised the audience.
I had undertaken a forty minute marathon walk from the car park to the open air enclosed area. Foolishly I was wearing the wrong boots and by the time we reached the arena, I was already limping. Trying to stay close to our large group of friends I tried to wedge my way forward. The moon was up in the night sky though some dark clouds tried to blur the light, and threaten rain.
The cheering and whistling took off almost immediately. It was clear the huge crowd was out to have a good time and Sir Elton John was eager to entertain us. He sang “Sacrifice”, “Daniel” and “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”, and the audience sang along. When he crooned “Believe”, “The Circle of Life”, and “I’m still standing”, we joined in the dancing.
Then came “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” which is possibly his best song, ever. The spine-tingling music of this immortal number got him a standing ovation. We clapped till our palms hurt and he obliged with an encore.
Now I know Sir, why they call you a genius!
by Nikunj Malik