Dubai's concert scene is set for a new dawn with Paul van Dyk bringing his Ibiza club show, Shine, to the Coca-Cola Arena on Thursday.
The concert is the first of its kind in the emirate, with up to 1,500 masked guests allowed to stand in front of their seat or designated area.
This means we can expect a lot of dancing when the veteran German producer, 49, drops trance classics, such as For an Angel and While You Were Gone, from his three-decade career.
Speaking to The National, van Dyk says he is more than ready for the occasion.
"I am a big freak when it comes to music and how to present it to an audience. That's a responsibility I take very seriously," he says.
"To be the first show where people are able to really have a good time again, dance and really develop that sense of togetherness just makes me even more happy and grateful. It also provides a possible outlook for the future.”
From Ibiza to Dubai
The concept itself may also be a harbinger of what is to come from the dance music scene. With many popular European clubs closed owing to the pandemic, bringing their concepts to safe destinations and venues could be the next best thing.
It also offers a chance to break certain misconceptions about such mega venues.
Launched in Ibiza in 2018, van Dyk says Shine represents some of the best qualities the Spanish island's club scene is known for.
“For one thing, Shine is a proper indoor club over there, so bringing it to an indoor arena in Dubai can be done,” he says. “What we will be bringing is really that positive feeling, energy and that excitement that comes from the music.”
Such an approach, he says, makes each performance different.
“We feed off the crowd,” he says. “We have a very clear idea about our music and what kind of vibe we can offer. With everything, obviously, depending on the interaction of the crowd, each show is different.
“Even if we come back to Dubai next year, it will be an experience that won't be repeated.”
Music for the moment
It is that emotional connection powering van Dyk’s music.
Born Matthias Paul in what was formerly East Germany, he was at the forefront of the trance music scene in the mid-1990s before the genre even had a name. After making his mark in Europe with inventive remixes, van Dyk really announced himself with his 1997 second album Seven Ways.
The release helped lay some of the foundations of trance music with its progressive arrangements, hypnotic beats, yearning melodies and ethereal atmosphere.
Van Dyk has been at the top of his game ever since, maintaining a Top 20 spot in DJ Mag’s influential Top 100 DJs list for the past 15 years (presently number 50), while topping the poll in 2005 and 2006.
Despite that experience, nothing has prepared him for the career and industry upheaval caused by the pandemic.
Not only did it allow him to stay at home for an extended amount of time, but it influenced the emotive and elegiac sounds of 2020 album Guiding Light.
“My inspiration is life in general and that had me being constantly at clubs and festivals around the world, and that dynamic was reflected in the music," he says. "But for the last 1.5 years I have been mostly not travelling and more at home. So it made me approach music from a more introverted place.
“This means I don't think about how it's going to sound at the next festival. Instead, when I am creating, it's about how it feels in this moment when I am sitting here alone by myself.”
With the pandemic being a fraught experience for many, the fact that van Dyk is able to hit the decks in Dubai is testament to the power of resilience. In 2016 he suffered a horrific fall on stage at the State of Trance festival in the Dutch city of Utrecht and sustained serious spinal and brain injuries.
He describes the recovery process as a shared effort.
“What is essential is that you have love and support around you and without my family, friends and my team, I really wouldn’t have made it,” he says. “And that goes for the scenario we are facing with the pandemic. We need to be there for each other to guide us through these difficult times.
“No matter how strong we think we are, we can’t manage this on our own. We need to have support from people that love us.”
Paul van Dyk performs at the Coca-Cola Arena on Thursday, August 19. Doors open at 9pm. A pair of tickets start from Dh318.40 and are available at coca-cola-arena.com