Dubai Diaries: Down concert memory lane

Do you have fond memories of the first gig you attended?


Enid Grace Parker

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Tue 30 Nov 2021, 8:08 AM

Last updated: Tue 30 Nov 2021, 8:18 AM

Are you a fan of concerts? I grew up in Dubai listening to Dubai 92, watching Chart Attack on Channel 33, collecting Smash Hits magazines that I split my pocket money on with audio cassettes from the Thomsun store in Karama Shopping Centre. And over the years as I pinned up posters of Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi, New Kids On The Block, Bros and many other singers on my walls, I would dream of seeing my favourite musicians in person - a distant dream at the time.

When I danced around my room in Karama’s Pioneer Buildings to Rick Astley’s now iconic hit Never Gonna Give You Up, I never imagined that I would get to stand right next to the stage over 25 years later at the 80s Rewind night at Dubai Festival City Park, cheering on a seemingly ageless Astley and a host of other 80s stars as they energetically belted out their greatest hits.

The retro night is one of many great memories from concerts attended in the city, once a laid-back desert town that has now firmly established itself (along with Abu Dhabi) on the radar of the world’s most sought-after singers and bands, and regularly hosts spectacular gigs, much to the delight of music lovers who reside in the UAE.

My first concert came in the late 90s when I saw British singer Peter Andre live at Wonderland, a former theme and water park in Dubai. I still remember the ticket cost Dh60, and was available at the entrance itself. I attended the concert with my best friend and my brother in tow, the latter attempting to hide his amusement at the mostly female crowd swooning at the sight of an often shirtless Andre treating them to hits like Mysterious Girl and Flava. Did we have a good time? You bet.

Years later in 2005, I was lucky enough to catch R&B sensation Destiny’s Child at Dubai Media City’s concert ground where hundreds of fans had gathered to witness one of the world’s all-time bestselling female bands. It turned out to be a foot-tapping night of great music from Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, all of whom also had successful solo careers by that time.

What do you do when you have a crush on the lead singer of a boy band? You try your best to wrangle a ticket for one of his gigs, of course. Something similar occurred when British quartet Blue - Antony Costa, Duncan James, Simon Webbe and the ridiculously attractive (at the time) Lee Ryan - came to town to perform at Dubai Media City. Being a little low on cash at the time and unable to afford tickets, I was thrilled when my cousin offered me an extra pass he had for the show.

I waved madly at Lee, who sadly had no clue of my existence, and happily sang along to the band’s catchy hits like All Rise and One Love, eternally grateful for my cousin’s generosity.

I’m looking forward to my next concert in the UAE. Meanwhile, do you have a particular concert you would like to share memories of? We’d love to hear from you!

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