Dubai: With 30,000 tickets sold and thousands of fans writing in to tell organisers the song they want to hear the band play, it’s hardly hyperbole to say that the Rolling Stones’ debut concert in the UAE on Friday is one of the biggest music events the country has ever seen.
The British rockers will play a milestone concert at du Arena on Yas Island, marking not only their first performance in the UAE, but the first date on their 14 On Fire tour, which also takes them to China, Singapore and Australia.
In the capital — where rooms at Yas Island hotels are sold out — and across the region, fans are counting the hours until the show kicks off at 9pm. Liz Beneski, a hotel PR based in Abu Dhabi, says this concert will be the 12th time she sees the Stones.
“They always play well to their crowd,” said Beneski, who cites an intimate, unexpected gig in a bar in New Haven, Connecticut, as the most memorable time she saw the rockers. Whether the song is from the ’60s, ’80s or aughts, they are timeless rock’n’roll. You will sing, you will dance and you will remember where you were when you heard the song.”
Concertgoer Natasha Farouque, originally from Pakistan, says she’s “a follower rather than a fan” but is ticking a musical box by seeing the band. “I think they are one of those bands that you know all of their songs, and I think the atmosphere is going to be fantastic. “
Some concertgoers are even flying in for the show. Muscat resident Jehanzeb Afridi says he has wanted to see the Rolling Stones his whole life. “I have loved their music since I was a teenager. The first song I heard was It’s Only Rock’n’Roll and I’ve been hooked since,” said the 36-year-old lawyer.
His choice of songs range from “anything from the Exile On Main Street album to Start Me Up and Jumpin Jack Flash.
“I think they are super relevant, their lyrics are timeless, and they’ve inspired so many generations since then,” he said.
While the Stones have been rocking since frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards first formed the band, named after a Muddy Waters song, in 1962, their relevance to modern music fans shouldn’t be brought into question.
“I think it first vital to establish the importance of the Rolling Stones in the pantheon of rock,” says Radio 2 presenter Digby Taylor, who last week interviewed the Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood. “When these guys first started playing together, JFK was the US President, The Cuban missile crisis threatened the world and The Wanted hadn’t been born. However, the Rolling Stones are not only still here, they are sounding better than ever before.”
“The fact they started so long ago and are still relevant is interesting,” adds Farouque. “The longevity is an allure. Now when so many bands are manufactured, the Rolling Stones feel very real.”