“I always want to stay focused on who I am, even as I’m discovering who I am.” Alicia Keys
So it was another trip up to Dubai for last Friday night’s entertainment. This time it was off to the Dubai Media City (DMC) Amphitheatre to see American R & B singer and musician Alicia Keys supported by special guest Jason Derulo, dragged the other half along, managed to cajole a couple of friends into it and even treated the teenager to a ticket too.
After a couple of glasses of bubbly and a tasty Arabic takeout dinner, we set off on mass to join the throngs of people heading to DMC. The other half was dispatched to deal with the mini teenage meltdown about missing Derulo’s opening songs (the best ones apparently) and the inability to contact her friends that were already there, as their father/daughter bond afforded her more patience from him than me losing the plot. Teenager safety dispatched with her own kind, the other half back with our group again and with more beers purchased it was time to enjoy the tail end of Derulo’s set. Muscly torso on show and glistening with sweat, dancer and singer Derulo asked us to ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ his latest chart hit and then along with his DJ they finished up their set and we awaited the star attraction Miss Keys, some in our group more excited than others, but the alcohol was helping.
Now I followed the lead of the other half and looked at the set list online ahead of the concert, something I don’t usually do (won’t be doing again either) as I like to be surprised by what an artist plays and when, it’s not quite the same when you are in the know. Keys ‘Set the World on Fire Tour’ is her fifth concert tour supporting her latest album, ‘Girl on Fire’ and she is not only an accomplished singer but also a songwriter, pianist, record producer and actress, an all round talented lady who has won numerous awards including nine Grammies and has sold an impressive 65 million records worldwide.
With a slight delay which I assumed was down to the stage hands mopping up all Derulo’s puddles of perspiration off the stage, Keys came on stage, opening with a teaser of her iconic duet with rapper Jay Z, ‘Empire State of Mind’ (annoyingly I knew it was coming in full in the encore). Keys worked her way through song after song interchanging from playing on her white grand piano, to her keyboard, to performing with her group of dancers. No question about this lady’s talent, her voice was A M A Z I N G and there were no apparent dramas, no flashy light show, no costume changes, no sign of Diva like behaviour (like some we have seen before) just Keys with her piano, her voice, her band, a couple of dancers and quite simply her music.
My only criticism would be that Keys backing singers sang a little more than expected and like many other artists we have seen lately they have this annoying tendency to ask the crowd to sing parts of a song, what happened to sing-a-long with me, I haven’t paid to hear the crowd sing I want to hear the artist sing! I am putting this new-found intolerance down to advancing years and general grumpiness!
She kicked off with Karma from her second album, followed by ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ (written with Kanye West) with a naughty unashamed plug to Blackberry when in the spoken part of the song she pulled out a phone pretending to chat on it (Keys is creative director of Blackberry). Then followed some tracks from ‘Girl on Fire’ and the crowd pleasing ‘A Woman’s Worth’ while seated at her piano, highlighting her beautiful, soulful voice. The opening bars of ‘Fallin‘ provoked a big reaction from the crowd, then two tracks co-written with Emile Sande including Keys told us her son Egypt’s favourite track ‘Not Even the King‘ which she sang emotionally. The audience then raised their phones in the air at Keys request (replacing the old day put your lighters in the air scenario) so the amphitheatre was lit up by a sea of glowing phones to the strains of one of her most popular hits ‘No One’.
The encore was a three song dramatic climax with ‘New Day’ first, then as Keys banged out the beat on the drums it was straight into ‘Girl on Fire’, but the highlight was the most anticipated ‘Empire State of Mind’, undoubtably her biggest hit of all time to date, set against the backdrop of giant images of New York city on the screen behind her.
I really like DMC with its surreal backdrop of high-rise buildings of Dubai’s Media City framing this outdoor venue. Derulo was predictable with his catchy pop tunes certainly entertaining the younger members of the audience and Keys was a true professional, a talented lady with nothing to prove, just a natural-born entertainer providing a great evenings enjoyment, well for me anyway!
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2013. All rights reserved.