They may be ageing pop stars to some, but their ageless music continues to draw crowds through generations. If you're nostalgic for the sixties, seventies, eighties, or even the nineties, the UAE is the place that rocks as legends keep coming and playing at sellout concerts here.
Ask pop legend Rod Stewart who is set to play in Abu Dhabi about what keeps him crooning, and pat comes the reply. "My concerts attract a cross section of people - both young and old. I still have many admirers in the crowd. Besides, I am also working on two new albums and doing a month-long US-wide concert with Cyndi Lauper next month".
Sir Rod is 72. At his age, he still packs the house and cuts new records which only goes to show that he is as bankable star today - Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake better take note.
Tom Jones, 76, is another powerhouse musician who keeps reinventing himself for millennials and baby boomers. Known for classics like Delilah and Green Green Grass of Home back in the sixties, he's an enduring performer who has an emotional connect with the audience. Jones opened this year's Dubai Jazz Festival at the Dubai Media City.
So what's their mojo? Sheer talent that spans generations. Harmony, perhaps, and soulful lyrics to keep all age of fans screaming for more. They have energy, and are selective where they play. They don't cancel concerts on a whim, according to organisers, nor do they indulge in tantrums like the younger bunch. Perhaps it's because they've been there, done that. Remember Justin Bieber's misadventures when he last visited Dubai in 2013. He racked up six speeding fines, setting off speed cameras on Sheikh Zayed Road as he sped away in a Lamborghini.
The singing sensation also had brushes with the law elsewhere and has been involved in several brawls. Last October, former One Direction sensation Zayn Malik cancelled his Dubai concert due to 'anxiety', close on the heels of Selena Gomez calling off her gig for 'health reasons'.
This probably was not the case back in the good 'ol days of Sir Tom and Rod. They just went out there and sang like only they could. They had heart and gave it their all, and meant it. In their heyday, it was rare to hear an artiste call off a concert. At the first Woodstock Festival of 1969, even a thunderstorm and protests could not stop the concert from running its full (three-day) course. The singers showed up and had a blast.
Teenagers raised on a diet of Bieber and Martin Garrix (EDM) would perhaps not connect with the music of maybe Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdinck.
Jones released Delilah in 1968 and Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock rocked the charts in 1957, but these songs are still being aired and heard. Compare this to Bieber's Baby Baby (2009) or Rihanna's Unfaithful (2006). How many of us will hum their tunes say two decades from now? Maybe a handful.
It's not that these legends are living purely on past glory. They often rearrange their tunes to attract a new generation of listeners. What you hear on stage now could be a golden oldie retuned and tweaked to appeal to a younger audience.
Little wonder then that senior stars are getting top billing at concerts. For instance, Tom Jones has been given the privilege of opening a festival that features younger, and much fancied names, such as Mariah Carey and Enrique Iglesias. Past masters have been rocking venues in the UAE like the F1 races in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai World Cup, and the Air Show, to name a few.
Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Carlos Santana, Lionel Richie, Brian Wilson (of Beach Boys), Boney M, Diana Ross, Mick Jagger have all performed in the UAE and have managed to fill seats.
Then there are others rockers from the eighties and nineties like Guns N' Roses and Bryan Adams who are performing in Dubai next month. The members of both the bands are well into their fifties, yet their aggressive kind of rock and pop combined with sprightly stage performances fills stadiums.
In the case of Guns N Roses, having a star player like Slash in the band is a major bonus. Almost every young guitar fan swears by him. Now that he's back with original bassist Duff McKagan, the gig promises to be a great comeback.
In fact, a few 16 and 17 year olds have 'humbly requested' this writer to organise tickets for the show since they cannot afford it with their pocket money.
"I'm giving the Jazz Festival a skip this year for the Gun 'N Roses gig. I haved saved the money to buy tickets as Slash is back in the band. It's aggressive music, and I love that," said Himadri Gautam, 33, a Dubai entrepreneur
Adams, 57, a veteran, has been in showbiz for over three decades, yet listeners are as eager as ever to listen to this gravelly-voiced rocker.
In fact, 117Live CEO and organiser of the show Thomas Ovesen told Khaleej Times:: "As long as he plays Summer of '69, there will be an audience. we and his fans want him back."
"Tom Jones is a living legend who has won the hearts of fans across generations. His relevance can mainly be attributed to his hits and stellar musical career. And we also think his stint as the BBC One's The Voice judge endeared him to younger followers,'' remarked Anthony Younes, CEO of ChillOut Productions.
Dubai-based training manager Deepanjan Banerjee, 43, a huge fan of the Dubai Jazz Festival, regrets missing out on his big chance to watch Tom Jones. "If I had to go this year, it would only be for Tom Jones. Unfortunately I'm out of town on an emergency. I've grown up on Sir Tom's music. In fact, when we were in college, my friends and I would hum his songs." - email@example.com
Grab your tickets
Thursday, March 2, 7pm, du Arena, Abu Dhabi
Guns N' Roses
Friday, March 3, 6pm, Autism Rocks Arena, Dubai
Thursday, March 9, 8pm, Autism Rocks Arena, Dubai
By Michael Gomes
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