Review: Jaden and Willow Smith’s gig at the Dubai Mall

A shopping mall rarely makes an ideal concert venue, but with the celebrity offspring of Will Smith also in town to promote their MSFTS fashion line, the venue offered a fortuitous pairing.

 Willow and Jaden Smith perform at the Dubai Mall. Sarah Dea / The National
Powered by automated translation

A shopping mall rarely makes an ideal concert venue, and Jaden and Willow Smith’s brief gig at The Dubai Mall was no exception.

The vast, echoey chasm of the Fashion Atrium was an acoustical nightmare and, coupled with the stacked screams of hundreds of children assembled for the free concert, it was at times hard to hear exactly what was going on.

Still, with the celebrity offspring of Will Smith also in town to promote their MSFTS fashion line, as part of Dubai Summer Surprises, the venue offered a fortuitous pairing: anyone prepared to fork out Dh150 for a shirt – which were only on sale while they were in the country, with the proceeds rom the sales going to charity – also got a meet-and-greet with the siblings thrown in.

The teenagers worked as an energetic tag team, blitzing through tunes while bouncing up and down the fashion catwalk with stagecraft beyond their years.

Backed by a live drummer and keyboardist, the music was a mixed bag — and the two musical personalities don't always sit naturally together. Jaden, 17, attacks the microphone with monotone raps over dark, hip-hop grooves, best executed on new single Scarface. Willow, 14, wails over basic electro-pop vamps, like a confused teenager bearing her innermost thoughts in public. "I'm so emotional" begins one diary-torn lyric — which perhaps she is.

Much of the material felt like short, unfinished sketches — they sing a dozen songs in 30 minutes, and still have time spare to chat. Things end with Willow's 2010 smash hit Whip My Hair — how much can she relate to the nine-year-old who sang that platinum hit today?

Tellingly the most ear-piercing screams come not for the music, but when Jaden, the clear fan favourite, starts taking selfies from the stage.

The siblings played London’s hip Wireless festival last month, and this show — launching the start of Kids Fashion Fest — may be a bitter pill to swallow.

But it highlights the great crossroads the pair face; trapped between the child stars they started off as, and the serious artists they want to be, capable of earning adult respect and appeal.

As the Smiths continue to dabble in music, movies and fashion, one doubts if they will find a distinct artistic voice of their own. Yet if they can channel their family fortune and innate sense of creativity in one coherent direction moving into adulthood, Jaden and Willow may well find fame far from their parent’s shadow.