How well do you know your loved ones? That’s a question that might be awkwardly asked, but with our help, favourably answered, this weekend, thanks to the gold mine of different entertainment options on offer for Valentine’s Day.
It’s a tribute to the UAE’s maturing cultural scene that there’s such a diversity of musical acts performing on a single night. You might find yourself jigging to mambo or bopping to hip-hop, dressing up for the opera or gearing up for a two-day pop festival on Thursday.
The chance to exercise such eclecticism was unimaginable just a few years ago, but with such choice comes decisions – and no night carries more pressure in the delicate art of judging the right mood for your companions than the annual St Valentine’s shindig.
So, whether you’re bonding with family, reconnecting with old friends or trying to wow a partner, here’s our guide to the best music on offer across the UAE on February 14.
Lively Latin jazz at NYUAD
Best for: Dancing
A treat for the more fleet-footed dancer and discerning musicophile alike: multi-Grammy-Award-winning Cuban jazz stalwart Arturo O’Farrill will lead his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra through an open-air evening of big-hearted classic mambo. Few musical traditions wear their passion more boldly than those of the Latin variety, and pianist/composer O’Farrill’s credentials are beyond dispute. Key to the mood factor is the location at NYUAD’s outdoor East Plaza – rather than The Arts Centre’s formal theatre spaces – which surely serves as an open invitation to dance. Musical spectacle aside, this will be a chance to catch the fiery footwork of mambo-starved enthusiasts – or the chance to strut it yourself.
Romance rating: Four-and-a-half stars
Valentine's USP: feisty footwork and catchy rhythms
Details: 8pm, tickets Dh105, The East Plaza, New York University Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, www.nyuad-artscenter.org
Pitbull cheesing it up at the opening of a cricket tournament
Best for: an all-in macho spectacle (at a bundle package price)
Yep, you read that right. After his opening slot at the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2016, evergreen rapper Pitbull solidifies his status as the UAE’s on-call sporting hype man with an unlikely pre-tournament set opening the Pakistan Super League (PSL) – part of a border-crossing all-star bill that also features Pakistani leading man Fawad Khan, recently reformed Sufi-rock legends Junoon, and Boney M survivor, Marcia Barrett. He’s hardly the smoothest gent, as Pitbull has faced considerable backlash over the years for his lyrical take on the fairer gender, but still, Mr Worldwide’s ability to get transnational pulses racing is renowned.
Romance rating: One star
Valentine's USP: it's a two-for-one of music and sport – at just Dh40 a pop
Details: 8pm, tickets cost Dh40, Dubai International Cricket Stadium, www.q-tickets.com
The heartbreak of Edith Piaf
Best for: dressing up for a show
It's a beguiling piece of programming that will bring Broadway-style musical tribute Piaf! Le Spectacle to Dubai just in time for Valentine's Day. Largely thanks to Marion Cotillard's Oscar-winning turn in biopic La Vie en Rose, the legendary French chanteuse is better known for the tragedy of her life – and love – than conventional crooning. Resilience, comradeship and stoic struggle might characterise Piaf's work more than romance. However, fresh from 40 different countries, this blockbuster musical tribute promises to chart the songstress's rise from gutter to star with gusto, thanks to leading ladies Anne Carrere and Nathalie Lermitte. And, with it being staged at the UAE's premier performance venue, is surely enough to give the evening that extra-special mood.
Romance rating: Five stars
Valentine's USP: it's a night out at the opera, after all
Details: 7pm and 10pm; Friday 3pm and 8pm, tickets from Dh200-800, Dubai Opera, www.dubaiopera.com
Best for: summoning the stamina of a festival experience
The first staging of mainstream music two-dayer RedFestDXB notably closed on February 14, 2014 with The Lumineers (remember them?), so it’s something of a full circle that Virgin Radio’s sixth annual teen- tastic happening kicks off on that same date. It’s also a good opportunity to chart how far it’s come: Thursday’s show will feature Brit pop queen Jess Glynne, chart-troubling French producer DJ Snake and American rapper G-Eazy. Not the most romantic bill, granted, but festivals do have that je ne sais quois. See overleaf.
Romance rating: Three stars
Valentine's USP: undoubtedly the night's biggest musical bash in town
Details: From 6pm, single-day tickets from Dh395, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.redfestdxb.com/tickets
G-Eazy G-ing it up in a bling club
Best for: hardened hip-hop heads
For fans aged 21 and older who want to be up close to G-Eazy without the hassle of a full festival, the No Limit rapper will doubtless be living it large at his Official After-Party, hosted at the suitably glam White Dubai. Presumably, he'll take the mic in a relaxed fashion at some stage in the evening: expect it to be late, brief and adult – everything, arguably, RedFestDXB is not. See overleaf.
Romance rating: Four stars
Valentine's USP: the closest you're likely to get to the big G
Details: From 11pm, tickets cost Dh250 for ladies, Dh350 for gents, White Dubai, Meydan Racecourse, tickets. virginmegastore.me/ae
An all-star Arabic ball
Best for: celebrity-spotters
Syrian Star Academy winner Nassif Zeytoun heads up a night of contemporary Arabic pop at the Damsco Gala – an unashamedly glitzy, arena-sized dinner event that is forgoing all attempts at intimacy with space for a whopping 2,000 diners. An alumni of Quincy Jones's all-star Tomorrow/Bokra crossover charity single, Zeytoun will be joined onstage by Adam and Yara, and promises to perform hits including Badi Yaha and Mannou Sharet. However, with regional celebrities tipped to attend, we expect to see as many eyes glued to smartphones as to the stage.
Romance rating: Five stars
Valentine's USP: Glitz, glamour and stars
Details: From 10pm, tickets from Dh500-2,500, Festival Arena, Dubai Festival City, www.visitdubai.com
Best for: an all-night boogie
Among the expanse of dedicated DJs spinning house grooves on any given Thursday night in the UAE, our pick for this week is the much-loved Ibiza mainstay Nic Fanciulli, who will be bringing the beats to the regular #ThursdaysAtSoho club night. Ideal for meeting friends new and old alike.
Romance rating: Three stars
Valentine's USP: communal love under a groove
Details: From 10pm, Soho Garden, Meydan, for reservations call 052 388 8849 or email firstname.lastname@example.org