We knew his songs by heart, we knew he would sing the carpe diem-drenched song Kal Ho Na Ho as his grand finale and we knew that his stamina would rip and roar through the stage for nearly four hours.
But knowing isn’t enough when it comes to Indian singer Sonu Nigam. Nothing prepares you for the soulful experience you get from his timeless melodies as he commands the attention of the crowd with his impressive vocals. His age-defying charm as he engages in casual banter with his fans adds an intimate twist to the show held at Dubai Tennis Duty Free Stadium on Friday.
Dressed in a white jacket with golden metallic detailing and white tapered trousers, the singer — accompanied by a 50-member orchestra, was like a warrior on a mission. They began sharp at 9.01pm as promised and wrapped it neatly by 1am. But there wasn’t a moment in those four hours when he became monotonous. After all, performing to a sold-out concert in Dubai for the 17th time in impressive, but it’s also a test to his long-enduring appeal.
“It’s an emotional moment for me to be here in Dubai. I don’t think anybody can ever enjoy this kind of bliss. I consider myself blessed. I thank you with my soul for all the love I have received over the years,” said Nigam, adding that he always feels a divine connection with his UAE fan base.
He kicked off the concert with an apt club anthem Aaj Ki Raat Hona Hai Kya, loosely translated as ‘what happens tonight’, from Shah Rukh Khan film Don: The Chase Begins and even took it upon himself to sing portions sung by female singer Alisha Chinai. Nigam singing her parts was slightly odd, but he was pitch-perfect while singing his portions.
The first three hours were dedicated to singing his biggest hits including Shukran Allah from Qurbaan, the title song of Saathiya and the incredible intimate Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin, but he mixed things up in the second part of the show. The latter segment was a tribute to his “musical father” and Nigam’s biggest influence, the late music composer R D Burman as he took us down the nostalgic path with hits such as Mere Sapno Ki Rani. His anecdote about him losing out on a chance to work with the musical genius due to bad timing added an intimate touch to the evening.
While his stupendous energy and his all-consuming voice left us awe-struck, it was those anecdotal nuggets that he dropped during his show — such as the time when he was typecast as the go-to singer for tragic, break-up songs even though he had never had a real break-up in his life — that kept the momentum going.
Singers Jonita Gandhi (you know her from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil hit The Breakup Song) and Vishesh Oberoi, the son of organiser Naresh Oberoi of Oberoi Middle East Events, complemented Nigam’s well-seasoned act.
Even though the clock had struck midnight, thousands of music revellers braved the cold and soldiered on to hear the song that they all had identified their idol with — the title song of Shah Rukh Khan’s Kal Ha No Ho. Nigam didn’t disappoint as he urged his fans to seize the day with his song. While millennials may find his hits unfamiliar, there was no denying his timeless popularity with those ‘90s kids, who formed the majority of the crowd.