Third time's a charm for Louis Tomlinson’s Dubai fans.
After postponing his show twice owing to Covid-19, the former One Direction singer will finally perform at Coca-Cola Arena on Saturday as part of his world tour.
Judging by the reception, with big arena shows planned across Europe and South America, Tomlinson's solo career is off to a great start.
A lot of it is down to a shrewd choice of blending a few One Direction hits into a music set filled with songs from his largely underrated debut album Walls.
Together, the setlist not only results in an engaging concert experience but gives us a better perspective into his slow and steady career.
Here are five key songs, which are a mainstay of his tour.
1. ‘Drag Me Down’ (2015)
One Direction’s first single without departed member Zayn Malik shows the band didn't miss a beat. In fact, with the group down to four, the remaining singers are able to make more of a vocal impression.
Drag Me Down is Tomlinson’s finest moment. He gives an exhilarating vocal line in the bridge before knocking it out with the brilliantly catchy “Nobody!” refrain in the chorus.
Drag Me Down is a love letter to One Direction fans for staying the course throughout the group’s changes. It now packs more emotional heft when Tomlinson plays it in the earlier part of the concert.
2. ‘History’ (2015)
It is Tomlinson's powerful vocal in the second half of this power ballad that provides a glimpse of what his solo career could, would and does sound like.
While other band members deliver their takes over folk guitar, Tomlinson arrives on a wave of pounding drums and a wall of electric guitars recalling the work of his Brit-pop heroes Oasis.
While his vocal style was typically understated at the time, the song shows how with the right arrangements Tomlinson can pack a punch all on his own.
3. ‘Kill My Mind’ (2020)
When One Direction disbanded, each member went their separate creative way.
Some released solo tracks ranging from the relatively edgy, such as Liam Payne, to the experimental, such as from Zayn Malik and Harry Styles, and while Niall Horan chose intimate folk, Tomlinson doubled on the boyband’s slick approach for his own material.
His debut solo single Kill My Mind, which is a euphoric pop-rock jam, could easily have made it onto One Direction’s last album, Made in the AM.
That’s a good thing. At peace with his momentous past, he sounds assured while giving Directioners what they want.
4. ‘Two of Us’ (2020)
Prior to recording Walls, Tomlinson lost his mother and sister in the space of three years.
The resulting devastation formed the album's major themes of resilience and optimism. Fortunately, it is all done with a light touch and some of the results are quite moving.
Two of Us is a beautiful piano lament to his mother in which he promises to "be living one life for the two of us".
Simple and straightforward, it showcases Tomlinson’s appeal as a sensitive yet down-to-earth pop star.
5. ‘We Made It’ (2020)
The lack of fresh sounds on Walls is ironically what makes it work.
While peers continuously try to find new sonic innovations, there is something endearing about Tomlinson's basic approach to his craft.
Going viral on TikTok is clearly not for him with some well-crafted songs recalling a former era of singer-songwriters.
We Made It is a prime example. It has a vibe recalling the work of US musician John Mellencamp as it spins a tale of young love birds "telling each other what we dream about", before adding that "we were only kids, just trying to work it out".
Like Tomlinson, the song is appealing in how unassuming it all sounds.
Louis Tomlinson performs at Coca-Cola Arena on Saturday. Doors open at 7pm; tickets from D225; www.coca-cola-arena.com
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