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29 May, 2004

Crowded out

A PR associate's phone call comes at a weak and flustered moment, resulting in the acceptance of two tickets to a concert rather than a tactful excuse.

"Big" concerts take place at various unsuitable venues around Dubai, due to the fact that the Emirate has not yet built a permanent entertainment stadium. Fortunately this one is being held at Media City, not too far from Guantanamo. Sweaty crowds have already collected in the humid night by the time the Silver Shadow draws up at the gates, so we flick them aside with a sharp-edged press pass and find a quiet perch at the very top of the temporary stadium.

Prayers that the Dubai expatriate collective will not likewise scale the slopes of the metal mountain fail as a mid-fifties British yob and his bleached Eastern-European girlfriend - so much his junior that she is wearing orthodontic braces - choose a seat within spitting distance. They chainsmoke, they are raucous, and the man yells "yeah" and "wow!" like a deranged teen, perhaps hoping this exuberance will blind his paid-partner's eyes to his grey hair, lined face and generally unbecoming appearance.

When the international singer makes the grave mistake of calling: "Are there any real men out there?" (Why in God's name would there be? This is Dubai) grey-haired cradle-snatcher is first on his feet, fist in the air. Bleach-braces does likewise for the "real women" call. Hopefully both will finish the night so drunk that they stumble into the stagnant, saline swamp of Media City lake and dissolve by dawn.

Eventually, overcome by the endless din and fetor of the general public, we make a discreet and very early exit. Concertgoers are still arriving as the Silver Shadow slips away into the darkness.

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