Soundstorm review: Post Malone and Michael Kiwanuka deliver killer sets in Saudi Arabia

The festival is held on the outskirts of Riyadh

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Rapper Post Malone and singer Michael Kiwanuka shone on the first day of MDL Beast's Soundstorm festival in Riyadh on Thursday.

The annual dance music festival returned for its third event with a slimmer, three-day format (down from four) and a more dynamic offering.

While dance music remains at the forefront of the festival, on opening day, the genre's giants Tiesto and DJ Snake shared the bill with the more pop-friendly sounds of Malone and Kiwanuka.

For the former, the show was part of his wider Gulf tour, which will also take in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Park on Saturday and Qatar’s Doha Beach Club on Monday.

Fans should expect a streamlined performance where the minimal backdrop is compensated by Malone's cheery personality.

Backed by an array of lights, the US artist took to the main Big Beast stage solo and tore into his hefty catalogue of hits.

From the bouncy opener Wow and summer jam I Like You (A Happier Song) to the more dramatic Better Now and Wasting Angels, Malone blended genres with ease through nimble raps and full-throated rock 'n' roll growls.

Malone brought these disparate elements together with a southern charm (he was raised in Texas) that was both sweet and sincere.

The UK’s Kiwanuka, meanwhile, perhaps the first soul singer to perform at Soundstorm, stuck to his guns.

That his dark and emotive set was well received by the packed audience on the smaller Down Beast stage is further proof of the sophistication of the festival's audiences and bodes well for more adventurous Soundstorm line-ups in the future.

Backed by a six-piece band, he performed a set focused on tracks from his Mercury Prize-winning album Kiwanuka, released in 2019.

You Ain't the Problem rides a groove that nods to Kiwanuka's West African roots, while the brooding Hero is a masterclass of sustained tension.

The biggest responses were reserved for his earlier hits, such as 2016's stomping Black Man in a White World and the tender soul lament of Home Again from 2012.

Tiesto brings in the crowds at Soundstorm music festival in Riyadh. Photo: MDL Beast

While these sonic excursions were well received, the packed crowd — which organisers said was made up of more than 100,000 people — were mainly there to see the big EDM acts of the evening.

Dutch artist and trance music pioneer Tiesto put on a solid set focusing on his current output including the blazing synth storm of Secrets (a collaboration with Kshmr) and the pop hit The Motto, featuring the powerful vocals ofAva Max.

The Underground section of the festival site, designed to resemble an industrial series of warehouses, was home to four stages focusing on techno and tech-house with leading lights Carl Cox and Sven Vath pulling in the biggest crowds.

Soundtsorm continues with the arrival of a regional hero.

Palestinian-American DJ Khaled will headline the Big Beast stage on Saturday and will be joined by fellow hip-hop stars Future, Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe.

The artist has been making the most of his stay in Saudi Arabia and posting images of his visit to the historic region of Diriyah and dining at the theatre-restaurant Billionaire Riyadh.

Other major acts performing this weekend include the recent F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix headliners Swedish House Mafia, Syrian singer Omar Souleyman and Pakistan’s Grammy Award-winning artist Arooj Aftab.

Soundstorm festival wraps up on Sunday with a headline set from US pop star Bruno Mars.

Tickets from 109 Saudi riyals ($29); more information is at mdlbeast.com

Updated: December 02, 2022, 1:05 PM