Review: Demi Lovato brings angst and grit to Dubai show

The US singer performed her pop hits with renewed rock sensibilities

Demi Lovato performs at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai on Saturday. Victor Besa / The National
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Former Disney star Demi Lovato showcased her latest evolution as she head-banged, air kicked and raged through an 18-song set at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai on Saturday evening.

Scottish acoustic singer Greg Pearson and Dubai Bling star DJ Bliss opened the show, but didn't quite prepare the audience for what Lovato was about to do.

Dressed in black leather overalls and backed by an all-female band, Lovato, who earlier said she was ditching pop music, kicked off the evening with four high-octane songs including Substance and Eat Me.

The sludgy sounds of the electric guitar, coupled with Lovato's piercing vocals, made some people in the audience tilt their heads sideways. It was loud, heavy and most of all, different from her pop-RnB anthems.

Lovato, 30, then pulled out songs from her early years, performing Here We Go Again, Remember December, as well as La La Land and Don't Forget, which she co-wrote with fellow Disney alumni Jonas Brothers for her debut album in 2008.

All these songs were given a grittier treatment, staying true to Lovato's attempt at hardcore rock. Even when she performed her pop hits Heart Attack and Sorry Not Sorry, the band churned mature sounds with high-powered guitar solos and riffs.

However, some of the highlights of the evening came when Lovato and the band dialled it down. After rocking it out with City of Angels, the lights of the arena turned off and a familiar soft melody resonated across the venue.

Lovato then appeared on stage, this time only accompanied by a pianist, and sang her hit pop ballad Skyscraper.

The inspirational song, which was released in 2011, is an ode to Lovato's struggles with mental health. .

Another remarkable moment was before Lovato sang 29 from her latest album.

“This song is very important to me. I'm sorry if you relate to this song, you shouldn't have to, but this is what music is all about. I just want to say that I see you, I hear you and I love you," she said to a swooning audience.

The song details an abusive relationship between a younger woman and a much older man.

Lovato ended the show with her pop banger Cool for the Summer, which again, had a rock makeover.

Although her music has changed sonically, the Dubai gig showed how Lovato still maintains the same brand of artistry that her fans fell in love with: talent and a whole lot of angst.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 5:53 AM