Front row scuffles and tone deafness can’t daunt him. Madinat Arena, Dubai, Thursday, October 1
Dubai. Sandy emirate where the Arab jetset go to convert oil revenues into tacky soft furnishings. As the mercury swells to 38°C, even the beads
of sweat develop beads of sweat. Women in abayas follow their husbands in dishdashas into aircon-nuked shopping malls. Far-off:
a low, flat bellowing cry peals out from near the Atlantis seven-star hotel complex. Is it the muezzin wail, calling the faithful to prayer? No. It is Ian Brown, singing in a key seemingly entirely of his own devising…
Poor Brownie. Obviously, in an ideal world, a basic inability to carry a tune should be no impediment to a global singing career. And
it’s not as if Ian Brown hasn’t telegraphed this inability to make Simon Cowell mug anything other than the ‘stop wasting my valuable time’ face on many previous occasions – you kind of know what you’re gonna get from his gigs. But like any professional athlete, his voice has runs of form, and the word from his recent London show was that right now he’s in a particular trough. However, most crimes are forgiven if you can open your show with a laconic, iconic ‘I Wanna Be Adored’.
But despite the way ‘Crowning Of The Poor’ (one of only two songs he plays from ‘My Way’) courses with slow-stepping fury, there’s a gradual drop-off, and before his encore, the cheering meant to bring him back on is a little drowsy. Mr Monkey Man makes light of it: “You’ve gotten too lazy out here,” he jests, “you’re spoilt!” before launching into an abortive ‘Fools Gold’. Suddenly, he points at security. “Leave him alone! They’re bullies, mate. They’re bullies.” A Brit with the words of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ tattooed on his back has removed his shirt, up on the railings. He and Ian had been sharing a moment – but it’s illegal to remove your shirt in the United Arab Emirates. So security advise him to put it back on, by decking him in the chops. Once the ballyhoo is mopped up, Brown whips out a heroic ‘FEAR’ that heals all ills, then tosses out one last curveball by playing ‘Stellify’. It’s easily one of the top three post-Roses things he’s done, but given that he played it only three songs ago, Dubai is well aware of this. At the back of the hall, a steady stream of early-leavers make tracks… “Right. We’re off. Brush your teeth – fight tooth decay,” Ian says as he exits. But the sad truth is that on average one in three adults hasn’t had a dental check-up within the past year.