When Dubai Opera announced that Mica Paris was coming to sing Aretha Franklin songs, I have to admit that it wasn’t on my top 10 list of things to do. I don’t mind Aretha songs but I could only name you one. I also couldn’t tell you anything more about Mica Paris aside from she was a singer in the 80s.
After having been in Dubai for a number of years, you eventually get to the point where you will try a bunch of new things that come along. This is especially true when it comes to live music. So we got tickets.
I have to admit to having been in a particularly bad mood all of that day. PMS mixed with a bump in the road of my recovery, made for the giant cloud of depression and anxiety to follow me around most of the day. Due to an exciting outing in DIFC which I will write all about later, it wasn’t in the worst place of the day but I equally wasn’t in the mood to squash my fat ass into the seats at the Opera House.
At this point I should point out that I’m not, and never have been a fan of jazz music. If you are please skip on 3 paragraphs!!
We took our seats and waited. At 8pm on the dot the support act came on. For the desire to not be a mean girl, I’m not going to put her name here because she was terrible. She came out of the gate strong, singing Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. There were a few terrible notes but even the most seasoned performers would probably feel a little nervous singing the first song on that stage.
That was pretty much the highlight though. It got must worse from there. She totally massacred an Amy Winehouse song and a Michael Jackson song, to name a couple. Not only were the arrangements average, but she stopped singing in her own voice and started singing out of her nose and swallowing back her words. It all became an unintelegable mumble of noise. The bad notes also continued.
Finally, after 20 torturous minutes of noise and insipid hip swaying, it was thankfully her final song. It was an original song, and when she announced that you could hear an audible groan from the people sitting around me. Surprisingly enough, it was actually quite good! I don’t know if that is in contrast to the noise that we had just been subjected to though. Whichever way, it was a nice surprise. She sang in her nice own voice again without any ‘tricks’,
Off she tottered, and we all got ready for the main act. Which is exactly when they announced there would now be a 20 minute interval. To say people weren’t impressed was an understatement. I could have had dinner, skipped the warm up act who warmed very few people, and taken my time to get there for 9pm when it started. I had completely lost my sense of humour again by this point and told the girls that Mica had 2 songs to catch my attention or I was off home.
It took less than 2 minutes.
I don’t even know where to start with this woman’s incredible vocals. She is a goddess of song and soul. She made RESPECT look fairly easy to sing (it’s not – I’ve tried before), and bought the whole place together. Mostly slack jawed in amazement from what we were witnessing. People were cheering as she hit the high notes, cheering as she hit the low notes, cheering as she held the long notes, and cheering when she did some vocal adlibbing. (Don’t know what the proper word for that is!)
I was absolutely entranced and hurt my hands where I clapped so hard.
From this point the show only got better and better. There were a couple of songs that I didn’t know but that didn’t really matter. I loved hearing them. I didn’t care who wrote them or sang them originally. All I knew is that I was watching magic.
I sound slightly like an in love fan girl here. Probably because I am. I have never heard anything like it. It spoke to a place in me that I didn’t know existed. It was like having a fire lit from inside you, and it gave you hope and strength. It was actually quite emotional at times.
On top of the perfect runs, and wonderful song choice, there was Mica running about the stage and yet still belting out the words with all her considerable power. You only realised how much effort must go into a performance like this when she had to dab her brow between songs.
One of the biggest cheers for the night was when she finally pulled her eyelashes off. Shew as so hot that they had come lose apparently, and she eventually gave up trying to stick them back in place and took them off to an almighty cheer and round of applause. One gentleman shouted out that she didn’t need them anyway as she was beautiful and I wholeheartedly agree.
Not only does she look incrideble (I was shocked to read she is actually 50 now) and have vocals that I’m sure Aretha was watching from heaven and praising, but she just comes across as such a nice person. She had little chats between songs and was geniuine and funny. I could imagine having a girls night with her and sharing stories over wine and comfort food. It is now on my top 10 list of things I would love to do, actually.
There was one point, well multiple points actually but one in particular, where I wished with everything I had that I was back in Bermuda witnessing this.
She was talking about going to church as a child with her grandparents, and how that had deeply inspinspired her and shaped her vocal style. From there she launched into the most stunning version of Amazing Grace that I have ever heard. It was massive. Again, this is where I wish I had a much better grasp of English because I don’t know how to get across the feelings it gave me.
I had goosebumps, I had emotion welling up inside of me. I wanted to stand and praise and worship along side her. I wanted to be in a church where this is how it sounded. I was bought up a Christian and although I have beliefs, I can’t hand on heart say I am a Christian. I would love to be but it’s not something that I know how to do. This however made me feel I was closer than ever. It was so powerful and so moving.
In Bermuda I know I could have been swept along with the crowd. They would have been up on their feet. Praying, singing, worshiping, and giving everything over to go with the song. I could see a few hands up from some members of the audience, but not the majority very Anglo- English crowd that was there. It still had magic though. It was the first standing ovation of the night.
It was not the last though. Far from it.
I could go on and on and on about this night though. Something inside me changed. Aretha’s music and Mica’s voice gave me a gift. It really did. I can’t explain how different I felt leaving there. I can’t explain how different that I feel today. It just is.
Sometimes messages come to you in unexpected ways, and that was one of them. It’s like you feel that you have a collective but invisible force holding you up and pushing you on.
I just want to say thank you to Mica. I hope she reads this and realises how much her talent touches people.
There are a couple other bits to mention though, before I forget!
Firstly the band and backing singers were exceptional. I honestly don’t think you can reherse a set like that fully. It looked to me that she was walking around the whole time waving her arms to let them know to carry on. That the song wasn’t to end yet. That she was waving at individual people to get them to up or add to their section where it wouldn’t be normally. I know for sure she caught the backing singers on the hop a couple of times and got them to just go with whatever it was that she wanted to hear.
Each and every time, they rose to the occasion. There wasn’t a wrong or dropped note all night. To play and sing like that requires skill that I can’t even fathom. They are all hugely talented and thoroughly deserved the applause that they got too.
The most random point of the night was when Brian McFadden trotted out on stage as a surprise guest! They had recently recorded a song together for his new album and performed it for us. It was lovely. He has such a nice voice. It was only one song though which was kind of good because I felt she had to really hold back in order to match with him. Add another skill to her mounting list!
All too soon it was over. I don’t know now how anyone sings and performs like that for an hour and a half. I can barely get through one song when I give it my all.
I wish so many things right now. I wish she comes back soon. I wish she records this set and releases it. I wish she performs more of this everywhere. I wish that one day she gets to do this somewhere like Bermuda. I wish I am there to see it when she does.
I can not say loudly enough or too often that if you ever have a chance to hear Mica Paris sing Aretha Franlin, or anything else probably, then you HAVE TO GO. There isn’t anywhere else you have to be or anything else you have to do. You HAVE to go and see this incredible woman and artist light up the stage and your life with her voice.
Go. Go. Go. You will only ever thank me.