Dubai Opera is still putting on shows that are considered ‘firsts’.
The Emaar-owned venue, now open two and a half years, will celebrate its first St Patricks’ Day this Sunday with the Hothouse Flowers.
They’re the not first Irish artists to play at the venue; Imelda May rocked the Dubai Opera when she played in Novemeber.
The Hothouse Flowers are expected to do the same on March 17.
It's not the first time the band will have played in Dubai, however. Liam Ó Maonlai, lead singer, said the band played in a venue that sounded a lot like the Irish Village when he described it to Arabian Business this week.
“We played I'd say ten years ago. We played an open air concert by a lake, and there was a lot of Irish people there,” he said, adding that he would get in contact with Imelda May to get a feel for what to expect in the much larger and newer venue.
A decade ago was a time when the band were probably towards the end of their ‘golden years’ in term of chart success.
The band shot to fame with the release of their debut album People in 1988, charting at number two in the UK. The album features many of their well-known tracks, including ‘I'm Sorry’, ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘It'll Be Easier in the Morning’.
Their second album ‘Home’ charted at number 5 in the UK, which features the Johnny Nash song ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. The band had more success with it the second time around when it was featured in the $3.2m opening sequence of the very first episode of Jeremy Clarkson's new car show, The Grand Tour. It catapulted the song into number one in the iTunes charts.
Nowadays, the band tends to work a lot more on their own projects.
Ó Maonlai has been particularly active, recording an album called Rian in 2005, which he describes as a collection of traditional tunes and songs in Irish that resonate with him from his childhood.
Out of that came Rian the show, a create a show with renowned choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and his dance troupe Fabulous Beast.
Fiachna Ó Braonáin, the band’s lead guitarist also dabbled in other projects, including a bit of acting and now works on radio with the national broadcaster RTE.
But all the while, Hothouse Flowers remained an active band, releasing an album in 2016 on their own, entitled ‘Let’s do this thing’.
“I do a lot of work on my own, which very often is quite traditional. With the band, we went into the studio and came up with a new album, so they're new songs,” Ó Maonlai said.
“We're not with any big record company, so it's not like we're being push to release things every year or three months, or whatever. We do it in our own pace.”
At that seems to be the way the band approaches a gig, which Ó Maonlai described as being “improvised” and very much decided on the night.
“There has always been a strong improvisational aspect to our music. We never try and plan too much ahead of what we're going to do, to allow for things to happen in the moment,” he said.
“We've got 30 years of material that we can take from we play songs from all our different albums, but a big part of it is that explorational aspect of the music where we go into a zone or a groove and work with it and take it somewhere that nobody - us nor the people listening - will have heard before.”
Playing on St Patrick’s Day in a foreign country is nothing new for the band, with previous shows in London, US and Asia.
“It's just a big day. I don't know how it managed to get where it is, but it seems one of the biggest celebrations of a country in the world,” said Ó Maonlai when asked about what day means.
“It's good for an Irish person if you're in the entertainment industry, There's work around anywhere. You could find yourself anywhere in the world.”
And this Sunday it will be Dubai for what should be a lively show, when another venue in Dubai will turn green for a night.
Ó Maonlai and Ó Braonáin will be joined by , long-standing band member Peter O’Toole, Dave Clarke on drums, and Martin Brunsden on double bass.
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