Abu Dhabi's best live bands

Had enough of DJs? Here's where to catch some real musicians Comments

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Mai Cafe
With his tattooed arms, highlighted blond hair and untucked shirt, Danny Shirran looks like he’s constantly on the verge of pulling off some frightening rock star stunt – like trying to crowd surf you and your two frail, unsuspecting chums, or launching a TV/VCR combo through an open third-floor window with reckless abandon. Thankfully, though, those of a delicate aural disposition needn’t worry – this man’s all about strumming crowd-pleasing acoustic anthems while you kick back with a frosty beverage and imagine you’re at a music festival. Danny covers everyone from Foo Fighters to Elton John, but don’t be afraid of strolling up and making a request – we promise he won’t be sick on you.
Every Wednesday, 7pm-10.30pm. Aloft Abu Dhabi (02 654 5000)

PJ O’Reilly’s
With precious few outlets in the city tailored to their sweaty sound, it’s hardly surprising to see Abu Dhabi’s rock fans flocking to this grubby venue Thursday after Thursday. That’s when house band White Rabbit let loose with their rawest, grungiest tunes, playing covers of classic, stadium-filling guitar anthems and whipping the audience into a frenetic mess of soiled denim and whiplash-inducing dance moves. Just one word of warning for those thinking of checking it out – don’t stand too close to the speakers, or else you’ll be cupping your ear to colleagues for weeks to come.
Every Thursday, 9pm-3am. Le Royal Méridien (02 674 2020)

Stars ’n’ Bars
Until recently, apart from the huge blockbuster shows at Yas Arena, live music was extremely hard to come by on Yas Island. And while the calibre of music at Stars ’n’ Bars’ new karaoke night can be a bit hit and miss, off-islanders will be pleased to know there’s finally somewhere for them to let off some steam. As with most karaoke nights, the flashy sports bar attracts a mix of genuinely accomplished vocal talent and deluded, tone-deaf monsters. Still, there’s plenty of motivation to get involved – everyone who braves the stage lands themselves a free drink. Three and a half minutes of pain for Dhs40 worth of party juice? Sounds like a fair trade-off to us.
Every Sunday, 9pm-11.30pm. Yas Marina & Yacht Club (02 565 0101)

Jazz Bar
For those who can’t stomach the lottery of karaoke or the potential headache of a rock night, Jazz Bar has long been a sophisticated alternative. Although they might sound like an X Factor reject, the venue’s latest house band – Synergy – are one of the most talented acts doing their thing on the city’s stages right now. The six-piece hail from South Africa and specialise in modern and classic jazz tunes, with the occasional R&B and reggae vibe thrown in for good measure. Best of all, though, vocal parts are shared between five of the group, so keep an ear out for those harmonies.
Every Sunday-Friday, from 8.45pm. Hilton Abu Dhabi (02 681 1900)

Four nights a week, a dapper troupe of gents known as The International Playboys tear the folks at Heroes away from their televised sports and force them to listen to their covers of seminal indie anthems and the odd lighter-worthy rock classic. Expect to see the likes of Manic Street Preachers and Guns N’ Roses on the set list, which the boys work through with tight, note-perfect precision. Got a tune you’d like to hear? Shout it out loud and often enough and they’ll either oblige, or signal to the bouncer to come and introduce himself.
Every Tuesday-Friday, from 10pm. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi (02 616 6132)

By David Clack
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: Nelson Davis on 16 May ' 11 at 09:28

A must have on this list is the vibrant latino band that plays at Trader Vic's. No 1 on my list for sure.

Posted by: Joe Drummer on 14 May ' 11 at 15:27

The International Playboys @ Heroes actually play 5 nights a week!

Sunday: 10:30 - 12:30
Tuesday & Wednesday: 9:00 - 12:00
Thursday & Friday: 10:30 - 03:15

See you there!

For more info visit:


Posted by: Max Sommers on 08 May ' 11 at 10:53

How did you miss out what is EASILY the best regular live music event in Abu Dhabi, the live jazz at the Mood Indigo bar in the Novotel every Friday night? The band are called "Cool's the Rule" but on top form (which means, basically, when the multi-talented Vladimir is playing sax rather than piano and regular pianist Titus is at the keys), "cool" is the last word I would use to describe them. Oh, and unlike the MOR-fest at the so-called "Jazz" bar, this lot REALLY play jazz, ranging from sensitive covers of ballad's such as "My Funny Valentine" or "Cry Me A River" to a furiously funky version of "Summertime" or an amusing boogie version of Miles Davis' "All Blues". Anyone who enjoys real jazz and who is unaware of this gig is strongly recommended to give it a try.

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