The Black Sorrows to perform in Dubai this weekend

Their formidable catalogue of eclectic songs harnesses all sorts of styles, ranging from blues and rock to roots and country.

The members of Australian band The Black Sorrows: centre, Joe Camilleri, back, from left, Mark Gray, John McAll, Angus Burchass and Claude Carranza. Courtesy The Black Sorrows
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After playing to an audience of ambassadors and dignitaries in the capital last year, Joe Camilleri is looking forward to returning to the UAE for a gig in a more natural habitat.

The acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter and his blues group, The Black Sorrows, will take to the stage at The Music Room on Friday, August 7, for their first public performance in the Middle East.

Camilleri expects the show to be a far cry from the plush Australia Day soirée in the Hilton Abu Dhabi last year.

“Well, it was an experience because you had to do things you don’t normally do,” he says.

“We were playing in an unusual setting, and normally bands want to play in places where they can control the atmosphere. This upcoming Dubai show will be totally different. We are the event – so to speak – and people are coming to see us.”

For the sizeable Australian expatriate community, The Black Sorrows should trigger a few fond memories of home.

Those unfamiliar with the band, which was formed three decades ago, are in for a treat. Their formidable catalogue of eclectic songs harnesses all sorts of styles, ranging from blues and rock to roots and country.

Some of them managed to reach an international fan base – the appeal of the 1989 album Hold On To Me, and its rapid ­follow up Harley and Rose a year later, spread far beyond their homeland to sell big in Europe.

Camilleri has particularly fond memories of the latter’s release, and says its success was a reminder to keep pushing when his career seemed to flounder.

"It was a strange feeling because the week before the album came out, we were playing in a small city called Geelong [in Australia] – and this was after a year of accolades for Chained To The Wheel – and the club only had about 150 people," he says. "I was standing there and I thought: 'That's it, I am dead'.

"The next night, the Harley and Rose album came out and it sold 70,000 records in a day. It was the weirdest feeling for me because, to use the baseball term, we were 'at the bottom end' and ­suddenly, boom, we are back to where we want to be."

That prized position as one of Australia’s biggest bands didn’t last too long, however – ­changing musical tastes and the steady general decline of record sales has rendered the group a much-loved yet small-scale act.

That hasn't stopped Camilleri from writing some quality tunes, however. The Black Sorrows released their 17th album, Certified Blue, last year and it packs another bunch of sturdy blues and rock songs. Highlights include the Springsteen-esque Until I Make You Mine and the country twang of Man of Straw.

“I think it is the best record that we have made for a long time and all I wanted was just to get the value of that,” he says.

“Sales figures are now irrelevant but people have started talking about it, appreciating the songs and its production values, and that really lifted my spirits.”

But it is in the live arena where The Black Sorrows are best appreciated, Camilleri says. That is the only thing he is confident of he when stepping on stage in front of a new audience.

“All I know is that you have got to do the best that you can and get on stage with a good feeling,” he says. “I have got fistful of what I think are really good songs that don’t have a shelf life and I am going to give it a red-hot go.”

• Joe Camilleri and The Black Sorrows perform at The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai, on Friday, August 7, at 9pm. Tickets cost Dh120 from