Tottering through Dubai Trade Centre in my modest heels, searching for the right entrance, was the first mini adventure of the evening. Disclaimer: these shoes were later replaced by a small pair of pumps I’d squashed into my Mulberry, as it really was a bit nuts to think I could stand for that long in the wrong footwear. That isn’t really the British gigging way, either.
Eventually, we stumbled across what was a bit of a disorganised space – that was until we reached a cluster of poorly dressed late teenage girls (i.e. six-inch heels, embellished clutch bags, short bodycon dresses in a range of vibrant shades) that were having e-Tickets scanned. All a bit airport style, but yes, that was the right queue.
Being Dubai, you can only buy liquor if exceeding the age of 21, and anyone who did purchase alcohol had to remain in a white wicket pen, rather like as yet untamed pigs or sheep. Irrespective, there was a wealth of pre-show activities scattered about the first hall; enticing food trucks, beanbags to seat those who had previously watched the demo sessions earlier in the day, and various stands showcasing FIFA 16 on the PS4, Virgin Radio and other lesser known organisations (well, to the British citizen).
Now, this was my seventh time in the Emirate (if my maths doesn’t fail me), so I wasn’t exactly intimidated or disillusioned by the whole setup, but there is something desperately illogical about how events are conducted there. For instance, we were hanging around in the main stage hall-come-well-lit-arena for a good two hours, without any direction regarding show times. A headphoned chap, whom I believe was called Miles (I do apologise if that’s total garbage), suddenly appeared around 8ish, hoping to captivate the ears of the discerning young fans in the crowd. Interestingly, but wholly unsurprisingly, his best efforts were dull remixes of two-month old UK club-going pleasers, including a spectacularly ruined bass-drop of Jack Ü.
I digress. Eventually, 9pm dawned, after spending a penny in the ladies due to waiting so long, and gawping at the sound and light techs guzzle super-sized carbonated beverages and foil-wrapped takeaways.
Ellie Goulding sprang to the stage, after a familiar slideshow of prior tour photos and stunning strobe effects, in a Stella McCartney boiler suit/two-piece. If that was an attempt at respectable dress for the UAE, then she absolutely smashed it. Considerate, yet a truly stunning look for her.
Opening the show with the wildly exhilarating Calvin Harris track, Outside, Ellie was instantly heard, with supporters cheering, wooing and wailing along from every square inch of the joint. However, this anthemic praise soon dissipated, with tracks less familiar landing on deaf ears. Apart from mine, that is; I’ve seen her twice and own all of her albums, both standard and deluxe, don’t you know? Us Gouldings have to stick together.
Hearing Lights and Joy was nothing new to me, with both being prior gig favourites, plus the old classic, Starry Eyed. The only thing unusual about that particular track was the lack of my original Goulding gig buddy’s hilarious handlebars dance, which is, actually, a great sight and visual accompaniment.
The fresh, new record from Major Lazer, Peace is the Mission, features a track Ellie Goulding performed upon (with Tarrus Riley); Powerful was another to tickle the crowd that night, and one my cousin was humming for days afterwards. Ellie’s new single, the controversially referencing and hazardously catchy On My Mind was somewhat unknown, but did whip up a bit of a frenzy among the Snapchatting trio of mid-teens next to me. I, for one, already knew the words and was able to offer Ellie a bit of solidarity from afar. It was when she played Burn, though, that the room really filled with brimming faces and, quite suddenly, everyone grew a pair of stupidly loud lungs. This was obviously one of her chart-toppers to reach the UAE.
Despite the minor technical glitch Ellie clearly endured, she was bouncy and energetic throughout the whole night, and got straight back on with it without a hitch, really. My entire surroundings were jubilant, and I was pretty touched by the welcome Ellie received, which rather made the experience for me. Yeah, I tossed £40 at Dubai Music Week, but it was quite fabulous and I did get a paper wristband for the privilege, and it’s also something I’m currently enjoying recollecting.
As we waltzed out, with looks of bursting enthusiasm and content, poised for either a taxi or Dubai Metro (both of which ended up escorting us home), I heard a body take to the stage and start requesting the audience to chant odd things. Strange, if you ask me, but, “can I get a ‘Goulding’?” was certainly one to make me shout out. Appropriate surname bias and pride at its finest.