Editor’s Note: Hey Mag #6

Editor’s Letter, Hey Mag, October 2019

“Everybody’s talking ’bout the new kid in town.” No! I’m not referring to me – I’m just deputising the editor’s role for this issue – I’m talking about the United Arab Emirates as a live music destination for big international acts.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have hosted some incredible crowd-pullers. Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, The Eagles, George Ezra, Coldplay, Rihanna, Bryan Adams, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, Sia, Pink and even the 500-mile walking Proclaimers have performed for eager expat crowds. The problem is: there’s only a short season in terms of being able to play outdoor venues. The heat makes it unbearable for the musicians …and the audience. In 2012, Madonna famously kept her Abu Dhabi audience waiting for 90 minutes before she came on stage. It was, she claimed, “too hot”. June? Outdoors? Hot? In a desert? No shit!

Until recently, there were only a few indoor arenas that could accommodate big-names. Dubai’s World Trade Centre could be converted into a concert venue with standing capacity of around 11,000. The stylish Dubai Opera (opened in 2016) has 2,000 seats and has hosted artists as diverse as Plácido Domingo, James Morrison and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s not only used for opera, ballet or classical. ‘Bums on seats’ are valuable to any venue, anywhere in the world.

The ‘new kid’ on Dubai music’s scene is a shiny new 17,000 seater venue; the Coca-Cola Arena. With corporate boxes around the perimeter, it’s reminiscent of London’s O2. It’s the largest climate-controlled arena in the region and is the only arena of its kind between Istanbul and Singapore. Since its opening in June, Maroon 5, The 1975 and Westlife have performed to sell-out crowds.

The UAE is no longer ‘just’ a stopover on the way to, or from, a tour Down Under; it’s now a specific destination and part of the touring schedule. There are major music venues, and some avid music lovers, of all ages and nationalities, ready to pay top Dirham to see their favourite artists. The Middle East is ready for music tourism; it’s ready to dance and sing-along.

Enjoy the issue!

Read Hey Mag #6