Dubai Jazz festival blows western and eastern sounds our way

A round-up of the first weekend at the Emirate Airlines Dubai Jazz Festival, which featured 3 Doors Down and One Republic.

3 Doors Down performed their greatest hits, including Kryptonite. Antonie Robertson / The National
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The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival returned last Thursday with an assortment of musicians and bands from the jazz, pop and rock genre.

Sure, not all the sounds emanating from the performance stages can be considered true to the genre, but the crowd dressed the part and lots of fedoras and tweed jackets were spotted.

While the crowd respectfully paid attention to some of the smaller acts on the bill, it was the American rockers 3 Doors Down and One Republic that they really came to see.

Celebrating their latest compilation, 3 Doors Down's greatest hits set on Friday was a masterclass on how to be relentlessly average: hearing their hits together, you realise nearly every single song sounds the same - both musically and lyrically.

It begins with an acoustic verse where the vocalist Brad Arnold reflects on his woes, then there is the bridge where he expresses some self doubt before affirmation comes in the form of a thunderous chorus where he pleads that everything will surely be all right.

That said, you can't argue with nine chart toppers. The best of the bunch remains Kryptonite, its fantastic chorus propelling the song to the deserved status of modern rock classic.

The Colorado pop-rockers One Republic performed on Thursday a solid set that showcased new tracks from their third album Native, which is scheduled to be released next month.

Their lead singer Ryan Tedder, who has written for Adele, Beyoncé and James Blunt, knows the radio format inside out. The two new songs performed, Feel Again and If I Loose Myself, see the band moving away from their Coldplay fixation towards more synth territory used by The Killers.

The result is a mixture of frustration and slight admiration. Yes, songs such as Marching On and If I Loose Myself sounded great live, but they are devoid of any true personality, which only surfaced briefly in the rocking Everybody Loves Me, where the guitarist Drew Brown undercut Tedder's earnestness with some muscular riffs.

They also promised to return to Dubai during their next world tour.

For the first weekend, all jazz acts performed at the Jazz Garden while the main stage was solely used to host the night's headliner.

Such a move ensured bigger audiences at the Jazz Garden, a good thing as it firmly places the spotlight on musicians little known outside tight-knit jazz circles.

The star of the Jazz Garden on Thursday was the oriental jazz maestro Guy Manoukian.

Arriving from Sydney where he became the first Lebanese artist to perform at the Sydney Opera House, Manoukian's Dubai set was as much a personal victory lap as a celebration of the Middle East's vibrant jazz scene.

Backed by an eight-piece band, the Lebanese pianist took audiences on a musical journey of the region.

He duelled with his bouzouki player on an almost carnivalesque Greek number, while in an Armenian-influenced piece, a percussionist took to the crowd and beat the drums on top of picnic tables.

The zorba was performed with enough improvisation to keep it interesting while Manoukian's more stripped down piano-driven pieces added some romance to what was an energetic show.

On Friday, Nicholas Cole's performance was a fine illustration of smooth jazz.

While the genre can be derided as background music, the American kept the audience engaged with the soulful Just One More Night and the upbeat In It to Win It, the latter demonstrating that you don't need a vocal to ensure a song is catchy.

The Australian smooth saxophonist Gary Honor used his Thursday night stage time to perform nearly every track of his debut album Heads & Tales, showcasing its various styles such as the funk-driven title track.

Under the Influence had hints of Herbie Hancock's 1970s era with Honor's sax swooning over some seriously lush keyboards.

Festival performers joined in to lend a hand with the trumpeter Lin Rountree and the guitarist Paul Brown respectively adding their touches on what was an enjoyable set.

* The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival continues until Friday. For details visit