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Sat 13 Jun 2009 04:00 AM

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Show stoppers

S&S lists the top ten live productions from the 2008/09 winter season in the UAE.

Show stoppers
Old-school rockers Iron Maiden.
Show stoppers
Cirque Allegria turned up the heat on the UAE box office.
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WOMAD brought world music to the masses.
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The launch of Atlantis – The Palm featured a spectacular light and fireworks show.

S&Slists the top ten live productions from the 2008/09 winter season in the UAE.

After some late nights, several pots of coffee, many heated arguments and hours of thoughtful deliberation, the S&S team has devised this list of the top ten live event productions staged during the UAE's jam-packed 2008/09 winter season.

In this, the first in a series of top 10 lists planned for publication in the coming months, we recognise the ingenuity, creativity, industrious nature, organisational skills and overall adeptness demonstrated by production teams, promoters, designers, equipment suppliers and event organisers.

There are countless events that could have been included in this list, however the following ten stand out among the pack for various reasons best listed in the following pages.

If you don't agree with us, we more than welcome your feedback. Log on to the Sound & Stage website located at and tell us what you think.

Iron Maiden

Heavy metal stalwarts Iron Maiden descended on Dubai Media City in February, with a colourful performance that marked two important milestones for the local live event production industry.

Firstly, the band's appearance in Dubai highlighted the growing eclecticism of artists performing in the emirates, proving there is a viable market for acts with a cult - as opposed to popular - following.

Secondly, Iron Maiden's performance marked the first outing of Al Laith Scaffolding's 25 metre-wide all-steel stage - the biggest in the region.

The stage was deployed on-location without a hitch, providing a maximum dead-weight load capacity of 50 tonnes.

Its introduction marked a major development for the local event production industry, increasing the scope and type of events that could be staged in the region.

Cirque du Soleil Alegria

Alegria fever hit the UAE earlier this year when Cirque du Soleil arrived in Dubai with what is arguably its best-known production.

Technically, the show ran like a well-oiled machine, despite requiring only six audio and lighting staff (and in some instances getting by with redundant equipment) devoted to the 15-year-old production. The temporary big-top venue and oddly-shaped stage contained therein was also erected in impressive time, proving that 15 years of practice really does make perfect. However, the overriding factor that propelled Alegria to the coveted number nine spot in our top ten was the fact it broke the local box office record, with more than 75,000 tickets sold in just over four weeks.

World of Music and Dance (WOMAD)

More than 80,000 punters descended on Abu Dhabi Corniche and Al Ain's Jahili Fort in late-April to witness numerous performances held under the World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) banner.

A number of the usual suspects of the UAE event industry (Al Laith Scaffolding, Flash, Gearhouse, AAA, Byrne and more) were involved in the production of the three-day festival, under the watchful eye of operations and event director, Chris Smith.

A wide-array of culturally eclectic music and dance acts graced multiple stages during the festival.

Even Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant arrived in the UAE capital, fresh from his latest perm, to perform with the imaginatively-titled Robert Plant and Friends.


Yes, that's right, it's another festival. But let's face it - preparing for an event involving multiple venues, performances and companies to work in close collaboration, can be a daunting and challenging prospect.

In the case of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), several venues were kitted-out to host screenings, performances and star-studded soirees across town throughout a full week of festivities.

An artistic performance by Canadian outfit, Circo de Bakuza, kickstarted the week of film screenings and associated gala events, which required the input of many of the UAE's major event production specialists and equipment suppliers.

Gearhouse Staging Connections, Redeye Events Services, Protec, Artes Middle East and Delta Sound all made the grade.

Christina Aguilera

The 2008/09 season kicked-off in October with one of the costliest and most elaborate concert productions ever staged in the UAE.

Promoters Flash and Live Nation combined forces to bring global chart-topper Christina Aguilera to the UAE to perform to a 12,000-strong crowd.

Protec was the primary local supplier of equipment, deploying its 15 tonne-capacity Total Fabrications covered stage structure, pro audio and lighting tech and a Nocturne LED screen.

Gearhouse Staging Connections was also called in to supply Lighthouse R16 LED screens, which were installed on the stage wings to complement the centrally-located Nocturne screen.

Rock Festival 2009

The 2009 instalment of the Dubai Desert Rock Festival shook the foundations of the emirate's Festival City complex in March, with a full day of metal madness, headlined by the regents of rock'n'roll, Motorhead.

The festival, which was organised by Centre Stage Management with tech and crew supplied by SLS Production, showcased the talents of eight local and international metal acts, each of whom demanded their own unique set of technical requirements. Each act performed on the largest stage yet erected in the GCC, an all-steel monster supplied by Al Laith Scaffolding and manufactured by UK company Serious Stages (also see number 10 on our list). A par can rig designed by festival LD Steve Shipman also featured, punctuated by 70 moving heads.

George Michael/Alicia Keys

Cooperation between local and touring production crews was of paramount importance in the lead-up to the production of the George Michael - Alicia Keys double-bill staged at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City in December.

According to Michael's tour director, Ken Watts, 63 tonnes of equipment was imported via air-freight to the UAE capital for the production. More than double that amount was supplied locally.

Impressive video and LED displays surrounded the pop icon's performance, creating an impressively packaged, aesthetically pleasing show for the 25,000 punters in attendance.

The stage set featured an impressive range of LED video screen technologies supplied by Dubai-based Creative Technology, with the aid of Gearhouse Staging Connections.

UAE National Day

Three days of festivities involving spectacular fireworks displays, musical entertainment, laser light shows and decorative building façades filled Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain last December, in commemoration of the 37th UAE National Day.

The occasion was celebrated in style, right across the country, but particularly in the UAE capital.

Production houses and equipment rental companies from across the country worked together to stage events across the emirates. Lebanese event specialist Sound and Stage supplied an incredible amount of audio equipment to cover venues spread throughout the capital and in Al Ain, requiring 15 days preparation in total.

Approximately 70,000 shells up to 300mm in size were fired-off by an elaborate computer-driven wireless music synchronisation system during three nights of stunning fireworks demonstrations staged in Abu Dhabi.

Coldplay/Andrea Bocelli

Two of the best-attended gigs of the season were staged on consecutive nights at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace in late-March.

Classic soloist Andrea Bocelli took to the stage on the first night with an orchestral accompaniment, entertaining a seated audience of 11,000. The following night, British act Coldplay, supported by Mercury Rev, attracted 15,000 standing-room only punters. It is hard to imagine two productions of a more dissimilar nature.

The quick turnaround between both gigs presented other unforeseen challenges thanks to a weather front that descended on Abu Dhabi in the days before Bocelli's show. Lashing rain and strong winds battered the production team, which included personnel from Protec, Al Laith Scaffolding and Delta Sound Dubai. In the end, Coldplay performed a two-hour set which will always be remembered for the non-stop rain that pelted production crew and punters alike.

Atlantis Launch

The launch of Atlantis - The Palm was by far the largest and most impressive production staged in the UAE in 2008/09, and one of the most impressive anywhere worldwide.

The Grucci-designed, computer-controlled fireworks display, utilised 50 tonnes of explosives and illuminated the Dubai horizon across a seventeen kilometre stretch of coastline surrounding the luxury hotel.

International headlines the following day were full of praise for the lavish, spectacular display of production prowess, which was reportedly visible from space. The technical aspect of the launch was masterminded by local production guru and technical director Simon Ransom of The Ransoms, and included a number impressive audio/visual displays and some immensely powerful lighting and pro audio technology.

Following the light and sound opening extravaganza, Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue took to the stage to entertain the assembled throng of A-list celebrity guests.