As a YouTube video surfaces of Whitney Houston’s final performance on February 10, ironically singing “Yes Jesus Loves Me” a day before she was found dead under mysterious circumstances, fans of the late singer are catapulted to a starlit night in Dubai nearly eight years ago where a Valentine’s Day concert saw that very baritone belt out a heart wrenching performance of the same.
This was Houston’s first and final bow in the emirate, right around the time when the gospel-trained singer had taken her first tentative step back into the spotlight, post a decade of drugs, abuse and a tumultuous marriage with Bobby Brown.
Nearly 6,000 people turned out to cheer on Houston at the old Nad Al Sheba Club’s special concert venue, the singer’s fourth concert in five years.
“She was such a delight on stage; a truly gifted voice that the Mariah Carey’s and Christina Aguilera’s of this world can only ever hope to match,” recalled Katherine Shore.
Shore had attended the February 14 concert with her then fiancé, now husband, who had surprised her with the tickets.
“Sean had proposed to the soundtrack of Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You”, so it seemed fitting that we attended her concert when we had the chance.”
Shore added that contrary to rumours circulating at the time of her drug and booze-filled life, Houston was the epitome of grace on stage, interacting with the audience and talking about overcoming her problems for good.
Shirin Najmi, who attended the concert with friends, added: “I remember out surprise when Whitney actually talked about Bobby Brown and their marital problems on stage.
“It took guts for someone to admit to their mistakes. She kept saying that her fans help her forget the pain; maybe, in retrospect, it served more as a reminder to her than to anyone else.”
Houston’s words belied the struggle the legendary singer faced during the mid-1990s, a time when her name grabbed headlines more for her off-stage antics than her on-stage musical genius.
But by the early 2000s, Houston stepped back into the spotlight, ready to take back her crown.
“I remember seeing Whitney on stage that night, thinking this woman has come a long way from the trainwreck that was being portrayed by the media,” said Shashank Chaudary. “She was so friendly and funny, joking with the audience and talking about her will to start a new life and focus on her music career.
“Who would have thought that it would all end like this?”
Chaudary also remembered Houston bringing her daughter on to the stage at one point and asking her to sing along.
“The sang “Children are The Future”, dedicating the song to all the children of the world. I think there wasn’t a single dry eye in the house at that moment,” he said.
We are certain, there won’t be a dry eye in the house either at tonight’s Grammy Awards, which has already announced this ceremony will pay tribute to the late singer who passed away the next afternoon after attending a pre-awards party for the same.
But while a host of singers will probably step up on to the Grammy stage to belt out their rendition of Houston’s award-winning, “I Will Always Love You”, what fans in Dubai will remember is the passionate woman who did the very same on a starlit night on Valentine’s Day, with a promise of a new tomorrow.
If only it ever were that easy. RIP.