Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year

Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year
There are many international megastars playing the after-race concerts at du Arena during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 November 2018

Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year

Gigs galore: Your guide to the music at the Gulf’s biggest weekend of the year
  • The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is taking place from Nov.22 - Nov. 25
  • There is a line up of artists performing throughout the weekend

The international megastars playing the after-race concerts at du Arena during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2018.

The Weeknd
Friday, November 23
Who? Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. He’s widely credited as one of the creators of ‘alternative R&B,’ experimenting with electronic sounds and introducing a downbeat, indie vibe (his latest EP, released in March, is called “My Dear Melancholy”), heightened by his falsetto singing (he’s often compared to Michael Jackson) and sampling of alternative artists’ work. His lyrics, while focusing on partying and sex, twist the more-common self-aggrandizing tone of the genre to paint slightly surreal, often-unsettling pictures of post-party confusion.

Worth watching if you like: Drake, Frank Ocean, Portishead, JMSN

Apart from his hits, best known for: On-again, off-again romance with US-Palestinian model Bella Hadid, interrupted by his romance with Selena Gomez. Also, punching a policeman.

Top karaoke tracks: “Can’t Feel My Face,” “The Hills”

Sam Smith
Saturday, November 24
Who? Soulful English singer-songwriter who first hit the headlines with a guest vocal on electronic duo Disclosure’s “Latch” in 2012. Six years on, he’s won a bunch of awards, including four Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar (the last two for “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Bond movie “Spectre”). Vocally, Smith’s a belter, and cites divas including Adele, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Amy Winehouse as influences. He’s big on ballads about love gone wrong, and famously thanked an ex-partner in his Grammy acceptance speech “for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys.”

Worth watching if you like: Adele, John Legend, James Morrison, Emeli Sandé

Apart from his hits, best known for: Unwittingly ripping off Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” for his megahit “Stay With Me.” Negotiated an out-of-court settlement in which Petty and co-composer Jeff Lynne were reportedly awarded 12.5 percent of royalties from the track and received writing credits for it.

Top karaoke tracks: “Stay With Me,” “Too Good at Goodbyes”

Guns N’Roses
Sunday, November 25
Who? Hugely successful purveyors of classic hard rock from a time when big hair — perm or mullet, take your pick — ‘wife-beater’ t-shirts and air guitar skills were all a young man needed to enjoy himself. The fact that their lyrics and music were last relevant around 30 years ago hasn’t stopped the ‘original’ lineup (guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, along with ever-present vocalist Axl Rose from selling out stadiums around the world since their reunion in 2016. And to be fair, outdated as their sound may be, few bands create it better than GnR — Rose’s extraordinary vocal range and Slash’s knack for earworm guitar riffs make sure of that.

Worth watching if you like: Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith

Apart from their hits, best known for: Hard partying and equally hard in-fighting. When the original band fell apart in the Nineties, Rose and Slash didn’t speak for decades, but threw plenty of barbs in the press. Rose once called Slash “a cancer … better removed.” In 2014, Slash told Rolling Stone that Rose “hates my guts.” Also, headgear. They like it.

Top karaoke tracks: “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “November Rain”

There also will be regional artists performing at A’l Bahar Corniche

AJ & The Gang
Friday, November 23
Expect old-school soul, funk and R&B from this UAE-based group, led by Sudanese singer-songwriter Abdelrahman Aljndi (AJ). They’re best-known as a covers outfit, but will also be performing some original material as part of “Live Across The City.”

Sons of Yusuf
Friday, November 23
Multitalented brothers Ya’koob and Abdulrahman Al-Refaie are a hip-hop duo from Kuwait who have formed their own production company and designed their own clothing line (The Base). Their debut album is set for release before the end of the year, Their multi-lingual remake of Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz” has racked up more than 5 million views on YouTube. Arabizing rap hits has proved a successful tactic for the duo, but they’re skilled music makers in their own right too.
Key track: “One Time”

Aman Sheriff
Saturday, November 24
This 21-year-old singer-songwriter has been making waves in the UAE and beyond and is definitely one to watch. Sheriff’s smart lyrics, singular vocal style, and guitar-loop skills make it hard to believe he’s as young as he is. His debut EP “Piece of My Mind,” did well on iTunes Middle East and he was featured on Apple Music as a “Favorite New Artist.” His latest single “Where Do We Go” has over 700,000 streams on regional streaming platform Anghami.
Key track: “Where Do We Go”

Chinua Hawk
Saturday, November 24
Dubai-based US singer-songwriter who has already released five albums and is currently working on his sixth. Most of his work in the UAE is as a cover artist — he’s a big fan of Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder — but he’ll be performing some of his own soulful material on Saturday. Hawk has recorded with Kanye West, written with Wyclef Jean, and performed with Celine Dion, so he knows what he’s doing.
Key track: “Sunflower”

Sunday, November 25
UAE-based Iraqi singer-songwriter who started out as a folk-y guitarist and vocalist (“I wanted to be the next Ed Sheeran, but a girl,” she told Red Bull in April) before shifting direction to soulful R&B. Since then, she’s built a reputation as one of the best pop vocalists in the region, and her background as a singer-songwriter gives her originals a lyrical edge over many R&B performers.
Key track: “I Wanna Know”

As Per Casper
Sunday, November 25
A UAE-based pop-rock project led by Syrian singer-songwriter Carla Saad who quit a successful career in finance to pursue a career in music. She collaborates with various Arab musicians from across the region to create a sound that is clearly influenced by Western popular music, but incorporates hints of Oriental sounds too. Their debut album, 2016’s “Hit The Ground,” hit Number One on the iTunes Middle East music charts on its release.
Key track: “Go Go”

Sunday, November 25
Young trio comprised of twins Thomas and Lucas McCone and vocalist Scott Attew. Vandalye are one of the leading lights of the UAE’s ever-growing alt-folk scene — Attew’s powerful vocals and fairly traditional songwriting skills balanced well by the twin’s more subtle, atmospheric approach to making music. Vandalye’s 2016 EP “From The Beginning” topped the charts on iTunes Middle East, and they’re currently working on their debut full-length album, recorded in Hamburg.
Key track: “Don’t Lie To Me”