Seven years after he first stomped on to the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival stage, British singer Jamie Cullum was at it again on Wednesday night. And with his action-packed one-hour-thirty-minutes set at the same festival where he made his Middle Eastern debut, he proved he hasn’t lost his touch.
“The last time I performed here, I fell on a glass table and needed stitches,” he told the audience, referring to his second Dubai gig in 2008, following the jazz fest, at a private bash for the opening of a fashion boutique. “So I have very special memories of this place,” he winked.
Kicking off with The Same Things from his sixth album Momentum, released last year, Cullum took to the stage in a navy blue jacket and skinny jeans. Known for his high-on-adrenaline performances, he drummed and sang as he raced the stage, eager to get the party started. By the time he finished his second track, Get Your Way from his fourth album Catching Tales, he was already on top of the piano.
This was going to be a Cullum-style concert, he seemed to remind the audience, and the Jazz Festival just got hotter.
“I’m not Olly Murs, and we are not The Wanted. I’m not even Santana!” he joked, calling out the artists featured on the festival bill. “I am Jamie Cullum. And if you’ve come for great music, you’ve come to the right place.”
Then, he added to the cheers: “Although you are the only audience I’ve ever played to with blankets.”
The chilly Dubai night didn’t stop fans from cheering and grooving as the 34-year-old broke into I’m All Over It, from his fifth album The Pursuit, followed by the sad Everything You Didn’t Do, also from Momentum.
If his last Dubai performance was filled with covers, although he always gives them such amazing interpretations, Wednesday night was renditions of many of his own songs. After all, with six albums in the bag, there’s a lot of material to go around.
But he didn’t disappoint those who came for his covers: There was the classic What a Difference a Day Made, which also featured in his 2004 album TwentySomething, the record which made him Britain’s best-selling jazz artist, and Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music, which he also performed at his Dubai Jazz Festival in 2007. All received graciously.
The highlight of the night though was when Cullum improvised on the piano, banging it and beatboxing as he belted out tasters of everything from Lorde’s Grammy-winning song Royals, Daft Punk’s Lucky, Beyonce’s XO to Kanye West’s Gold Digger.
Shifting from drums to keyboard to piano with ease, then jumping from the piano to one end of the stage and into the audience, and from thumping beats to intense ballads, Cullum is a consummate performer who, after all these years, continues to be all about the music. With that intensity, stage presence and vocal quality, it is safe to say, his performance is unmatched by any other artist who has performed in the UAE.