5 Incredible Concerts From A Decade Of The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

05 November 2019
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Formula One, Prince, Paul McCartney, Beyoncé, Eminem, Aerosmith
Since Formula 1 came to the UAE capital in 2009, some of the world's greatest artists have graced Yas Island's after-race concerts

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit, and with that the influx of artists who have performed at the after-race concerts since 2009.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the launch of the season-ending race on Yas Island has revolutionised not just motor racing in the country, and the region, but the live music industry as well.

In what is now du Arena, Flash Entertainment, which had been launched in 2007 and already had shown their intent with shows by the like of Justin Timberlake, George Michael, Shakira and Coldplay, among others, now had a venue that could comfortably hold three or four large scale concerts over the race weekend.

Since then, especially in those early years around the turn of the decade, the music fans have been rewarded with some of the greatest acts on the planet.

Here are some of the most memorable concerts that have taken place in Abu Dhabi in the decade since Formula 1 first came to town.

Beyonce (October 29, 2009)

The one that kicked it all off. Beyonce, striding on stage in a gold bodysuit, delighted a patient, and ultimately raucous crowd at Du Arena, with hits hit parade that included Crazy in Love and Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) - three days before the very first Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix race.

It would take a lot to beat that on launch weekend. But then along came…

Aerosmith (November 1, 2009)

No one who saw Aerosmith wrap up the first weekend will forget the excitement, energy and fun they brought to the arena only hours after Sebastian Vettel had won the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race and Jensen Button had been crowned 2009 champion.

The previous night, Kings of Leon had played a hit-filled but strangely stiff set.

Aerosmith’s set could not have been more irreverent, with Steven Tyler repeatedly engaging with the sweaty crowd (We think he just enjoyed saying “Abu Dhabi”) as he and the rest of the band reeled off hits like Cryin', Rag Doll, Walk This Way, Livin' on the Edge and I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.

A masterclass in entertainment.

Prince (November 14, 2010)

There is case to be made for Prince’s performance in 2010 being the finest that Abu Dhabi has ever seen.

Quite simply it was sensational from start to finish. Prince was at the peak of his powers belting out peerless crowd favourites like Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, 1999 and Raspberry Beret.

At the end of the show he even invited some disbelieving members of the audience on stage for a dance along, much to the consternation of the security guards.

Just as impressive was the more intimate private gig he had played the previous night in front of a few hundred lucky guests at Flash Forum.

Paul McCartney (November 13, 2011)

With quite possibly the greatest back catalogue in music history, Paul McCartney was as safe a bet as you’re ever likely to get. Anyone with a passing knowledge of his legendary live performances would have known they are filled with one Beatles hit after another, with sprinkling of his best solo work too. Drive my Car, The Long and Winding Road, Helter Skelter, Blackbird, Eleanor Rigby, Band on the Run, Let It Be, Live And Let Die, Yesterday and Hey Jude…and we’ve only scratched the surface.

Those who didn’t bother missed out on some of the most beloved and enduring songs of the previous 50 years.

Eminem (November 4, 2012)

At 40 years of age and on the comeback trail, Eminem played a barnstorming set at du Arena, a reminder that few rappers in the world could thrill such a diverse crowd quite like he does.

Backed on mic duties by Mr Porter, aka Kon Artist from Eminem’s D12 collective, the Slim Shady spewed out crowd-pleasers My Name Is, Stan, Without Me and Lose Yourself, as well as other hits from his film 8 Mile and collaborations with other artists.

Hip Hop had rarely been this real in Abu Dhabi before.