'Ali Campbell's UB40' all set to rock Dubai
When the lead singer of an established band leaves after decades of being together, the prospect of going solo can be petrifying.
But for UB40's former frontman Ali Campbell, it was a relief to leave years of problems behind.
"I'm feeling better than ever," Campbell tells Emirates Business. "After five years of difficulties, I had to move on and just focus on my career as a solo artist. I don't regret the decision one single bit."
We're speaking to the reggae star ahead of his first appearance in the Middle East as a solo artist. The 50-year old and his band, The Dep, perform live at Dubai's Irish Village this Friday, November 20, and they can't wait to get on stage.
"I love the Irish Village; I once celebrated my birthday there," he says. "Actually, I really love Dubai. I try to visit twice a year and always have a fabulous time. It's a great place to bring the kids as it's one of the safest cities I've been to."
With UB40 having already performed in the region a few years ago, audiences are more than familiar with the band, which has sold more than 70 million records worldwide, enjoyed more than top 40 singles and notched up four number ones, including Red Red Wine, I Got You Babe and Can't Help Falling In Love.
But after years of issues with the band, Campbell admits it was the right time for him to leave the group in 2008. "I couldn't deal with it anymore," he explains. "For five years, I was trying to get information [regarding financial issues] from management and I was kept in the dark. Management wouldn't give me the information I required."
In January 2008, Campbell quit the group after nearly 30 years at its helm and was shortly followed by keyboard player Michael Virtue, who went on to join Campbell's new band.
Having already released a couple of solo albums during his time with UB40, including 2007's Running Free, Campbell went on to perform his first solo gig at London's Royal Albert Hall in April 2008. However, the artist admits that it was not an easy time for him.
He elaborates: "When I quit UB40, members were saying various things about me in the press and it was frustrating.
"But I couldn't do anything but keep a dignified silence despite the fact there were days I just really wanted to hit back."
With relationships tense to say the least, the worst moment for Campbell was when his younger brother Duncan joined UB40 shortly after his departure.
"I was extremely upset about it," he admits, adding that he hasn't spoken to his brother since. "I thought 'Well, I can't stop him', but it was ridiculous.
"When I was having problems with the band, he was the one there for me, he was my shoulder to cry on. In fact, he encouraged me to leave and do my thing.
"Then to see him take over… well, I was very annoyed."
But things took a turn for the better during that 2008 London show. "I was in a state of panic beforehand; it was traumatic. But I received the best reception ever and that gave me the confidence to carry on."
Needless to say, Campbell is keen to put the past behind, and says that right now he's "the most productive" he's ever been. The singer goes on to joke that 21 months on, he's surprised that some of his shows still get billed as UB40.
"The Dubai show is called 'Ali Campbell's UB40', I believe," he says. "It's quite amusing, because I'm going to be performing a lot of songs from my own albums."
So does it bother him that he is still associated? "Not at all. At the end of the day UB40 is living off me, because they're re-releasing songs as greatest hits right now. There's no new material. And with Michael on board, we've got the rhythm section and I'm the vocals, so I'd say we sound more like UB40 than UB40 does now."
He adds that he "can't be bothered" to take action against his former band for still using his material, because he'd rather focus on his work. Having recently released his third album, Flying High, Campbell says he can't wait to get out and perform across the globe.
"We just finished shows in Australia and New Zealand, and we've got more coming up, including Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
"The great thing is I have Michael with me as well as my long-time roadie so it's like having a comfort blanket."
As for Campbell ever returning to the band, don't put your money on it. "There's no point going back. I've gained so much in the past two years and just want to move forward."
- Ali Campbell's UB40 Live in Dubai. Friday, November 20 at The Irish Village. Tickets cost Dh225. Call: 800 4669
Your week ahead
Healthcare Travel Exhibition & Congress 2009
Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, Dubai
After a successful launch last year with more than 500 attendees, the event is set to become even bigger, bringing together key players from the global healthcare travel industry. Runs until Tuesday. Call: 04 407 2666
Hotel Technology Middle East
Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
This event promises to offer exclusive high level networking opportunities, as well as deliver world class case studies in sectors such as revenue generation, green technologies and guest satisfaction. Runs until Wednesday. Call: 04 364 2975
Jazz It Up featuring Alice Day
Musician Alice Day performs jazz and gospel at this Dubai hotspot tonight from 8pm. Entry is free of charge. Call: 04 217 0000
Aspen Café, Dubai
Vindemia Art Gallery's exhibition of Hollywood collectibles at the Kempinski Hotel comes to an end today. It's your last chance to check out about 500 personally autographed pictures of heavyweights such as Michael Jackson, Al Pacino and Clint Eastwood. Call: 04 427 0219
Gallery of Light, Ductac
This unique initiative sees an experimental collaboration between Emirati graphic artist Khalid Mezaina and Irish performaner Declan Rooney. Call: 04 341 4777
Moneyworks Bronze & Art Exhibition 2009
Emperor's Hall, DIFC
For the first time in the GCC, this exhibition showcases works by more than 40 sculptors and artists, including Jasper Johns, Anthony Quinn, Cecilia Rodhe and Alex Katz. For more information, visit www.difc.ae
The First Group Theatre, Dubai
After selling out performances in Dubai for three consecutive years, the British musical returns to Souk Madinat Jumeirah today. Runs until Saturday. Tickets cost Dh150. Call: 04 210 8567
The Dubai World Championship
Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai
The world's best golfers compete for $7.5m between today and Sunday. Call: 04 365 8665
Movement presents Sanctuary's First Birthday
Atlantis' hotspot turns one tonight and to celebrate, 12 DJs play across the club's three rooms. Tickets cost Dh100. Call: 04 426 0000
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Time to split
Ali Campbell is not the only one to have left a successful band. We look at some other high-profile departures.
Geri Halliwell – Spice Girls
The Spice Girl dubbed as 'ginger' left the group four years after their debut in 1994. However, Halliwell joined the girls again after the band re-formed in 2007 for their Reunion Tour.
Kevin Richardson – The Backstreet Boys
The boys, who make their way to Dubai next month for their first performance in the Middle East, lost a member in 2006, when Richardson, 38, left the group on to start a family.
Brian McFadden – Westlife
The 29-year-old Irish singer left the multi-award winning band in 2004 to forge his own solo career.
Steven Tyler – Aerosmith
You may have seen him last month at the Formula One, but according to guitarist Joe Perry, Tyler "wants to take two years off from the band".
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