Darts, foosball, fire dancers, beanbags and dad dancing were in full force as Club Social returned to Abu Dhabi.
The pub games, spotless loos and polite queues for the bar were a far cry from the mud fests most British music weekenders turn into. And, though the three-day event was missing Mr Sunshiiine himself Liam Gallagher, there was still plenty of swagger about it all.
The former Oasis frontman was forced to pull out two days before Saturday’s headline show at Yas Links, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, citing medical reasons. He was speedily replaced by Example.
However, music fans still hungry for a taste of English indie rock were treated to a stellar show from the Kaiser Chiefs on Friday.
The group blasted through their back catalogue of lad rock anthems — I Predict a Riot, Everyday I Love You Less and Less and Oh My God.
Singer Ricky Wilson dedicated Ruby to a young girl in the audience holding a sign reading: “I was named Ruby after your song,” to much applause from the crowd.
Wilson, dressed in a dapper matching jacket and jeans combo, sensibly struck a balance between the band’s most famous tracks (circa 2005 during the height of the first album Employment) and lesser-known releases. While their audiences may have evolved from garish fringes to balding pates, there was still plenty of enthusiastic bopping among them.
Aside from his ambitious attempt to mirror Freddie Mercury’s hypnotic ay-ohs from Live Aid 1985, Wilson still has the knack for sweeping crowds up into rousing singalongs.
Fellow English band Clean Bandit rounded off day one. The group have built a loyal following thanks to chart-topping hits such as Symphony, Rockabye and Rather Be, which have more than one billion streams each on Spotify.
Their set was polished and the night’s younger fans were in full voice.
Saturday evening was, understandably, always going to prove a tricky sell after Gallagher pulled out, though Club Social certainly maintained its appeal as many turned up regardless, simply desperate to see international acts return to the country once more.
Warm-up act 13 Daze, a regular on the UAE’s circuit, presented a mash-up of excellent covers, rifting through a mix of metal, grunge and alternative. Their rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade deserves particular mention for some fine guitar work.
Example, whose electronic rap tracks are almost the exact opposite of rocker Gallagher’s nasal crooning, had big shoes to fill. And, though he couldn’t capture the same intensity of the Mancunian’s shows, he gave it plenty of welly dressed in all white, with hair to match.
The English artist, real name Elliot Gleave, played a high-energy set for an hour. While he’s never managed to get back to the glory days of Kickstarts and Changed the Way You Kissed Me, he’s been a prolific recorder. This year’s We May Grow Old But We Never Grow Up is an album that has, unfairly, flown under the radar. However, there was much to enjoy as he mixed songs off it and other newer releases with old favourites including the aforementioned hits as well as One More Day (Stay with Me).
As his clubby beats rang through Yas Island, plenty of audience members raved along accordingly, or at least attempted to. Plenty did not.
Club Social continues on Sunday with a full day of battle of the bands, where the UAE’s best up-and-coming talents (with 13 Daze on stage again) will fight it out to be crowned the winner and take home Dh25,000.
With a Gallagher-sized hole yet to be filled, any group looking to curry favour from the audience would be wise to belt out their best rendition of Wonderwall or Don’t Look Back Anger.
Doors open at 2pm on Sunday; tickets from Dh25; Yas Links, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi; clubsocial.ae