Over the last decade or so, a lot of the world’s favorite performers have come to Abu Dhabi. With a range of musical styles, Abu Dhabi’s visitors have offered something for every music lovers’ ears.
Thanks in part to the opening of world-class indoor and outdoor event venues, and the arrival of Formula One, enthusiastic Abu Dhabi crowds are always in front of the queue for global acts.
As well as reliving nine of the best gigs so far, we look at what’s brought the world’s most exciting performers to Abu Dhabi and what will keep them coming in the future.
Justin Timberlake, December 2007
This is where it all started. Justin Timberlake was arguably the first big-name act to come to Abu Dhabi, and even the UAE. He performed in front of thousands of idolizing fans in the grounds of Emirates Palace, producing a show full of energy and nearly non-stop dancing from the moment he took the microphone. The crowd went wild.
Justin Timberlake returned to Abu Dhabi seven years later, this time rocking the Du Arena to larger, equally adoring crowds.
Beyonce, October 2009
Formula One always brings big crowds wherever in the world it takes place.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to get to a race, you’ll know that it isn’t just about the racing. The whole race weekend is a big show, and many of the greatest names in music are keen to join the F1 party. It was great news for the city’s music scene as much as its sports scene when the announcement came that F1 would come to Abu Dhabi in 2009.
A typically glam, gold-body suited Beyonce kick-started the inaugural F1 weekend back then and set a precedent, entertaining grandstand crowds at Yas Island late into the night.
The “Queen-of-the-Stage” blew the crowds away with hits like “Crazy in Love” and her Destiny’s Child medley in that original show and Abu Dhabi’s Grand Prix weekend has never looked back.
Since then, every race weekend has featured global superstars keen to be a part of the incredible atmosphere.
Aerosmith, November 2009
To top it all off, the same amazing weekend rock legends Aerosmith provided the climax to a series of post-racing shows that also included sets by Jamiroquai and Kings of Leon.
The “Bad Boys from Boston” wowed the crowds with epic hits such as “Walk This Way” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.” The band is famous for their raucous, energetic sets and this one didn’t disappoint.
Prince, November 2010
Just one year on, another incredible weekend of music mesmerized Grand Prix race-goers. Prince performed twice that weekend. First up was for an intimate gathering of just a few hundred lucky people at the Forum. Following that, he made quite the statement typical of a legendary artist with an incredible performance of hits like “Purple Rain” for many thousands more fans.
Some say it was Abu Dhabi’s best gig of the decade; whether you agree or not, it certainly got people talking and cemented Abu Dhabi’s place on the international concert scene.
Madonna, June 2012
With Abu Dhabi now well and truly on the world stage and with the stadium capacity to match, Madonna stunned the crowd at the Du Arena in June 2012. The “Queen of Pop” strutted in her iconic style, rocking out many of her big hits, as well as newer material.
True to form for this artist, the show wasn’t without controversy. However, fans lucky enough to be there were mesmerized by her infectious energy. The highlight according to many? A Lady Gaga mash-up.
The Rolling Stones, February 2014
These musical legends have been on the rock scene since 1962, so when they finally made it to the UAE, fans felt like they’d been waiting a long time. Their patience more than paid off; the show was a massive hit with the Abu Dhabi crowds.
Mick Jagger swaggered onto the stage as only he knows how, before belting out all their many classics, including “Honky Tonk Woman” and “It’s Only Rock n Roll.” It was a legendary gig.
Coldplay, December 2016
This New Year’s Concert to see in 2017 is still one of the city’s most-talked-about gigs. Coldplay is hugely popular all over the world, so it was no surprise that tickets were sold out. What an incredible way to celebrate New Year!
It wasn’t Coldplay’s first visit to Abu Dhabi, though; they first came in 2009. In one of the city’s first super-sized gigs, fans braved thunder and rain to enjoy a momentous show in the grounds of the Emirates Palace.
But 2017 was even bigger and better; this time, playing to many more fans at the Du Arena and with another decade of hits under their belt. It was definitely a show to remember.
Guns n Roses, November 2018
Rock fans went wild when Guns n Roses put on an F1 weekend show as the closing act. Axl Rose reciprocated the love, tweeting post-show that Abu Dhabi had produced “a GREAT crowd, awesome venue, cool stage (w/a gentle breeze in the desert!)”
Sadly, the show was cut short slightly when Axl himself got sick. The good news, however, is that the band has hinted at a return sometime.
The Killers, December 2019
The Killers were part of an amazing autumn 2019 line-up of concerts at Du Arena that also features Bruno Mars, Lana Del Rey and Eminem. It brought to a close probably the most exciting year to date for Abu Dhabi music fans.
All autumn 2019 shows were amazing, but The Killer’s gig was particularly notable for its stream of hit after hit after hit. The Killers have been performing live for the best part of two decades now, plus they’re from Las Vegas, so they know how to put on a show, too. Shiny-suited Brandon Flowers and co-wowed fans from start to finish.
As 2019 proved, Abu Dhabi’s music scene just grows and grows.
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have put big live shows on hold for now, the city’s music fans have a lot to look forward to. The year 2020 will see the opening of the enormous state-of-the-art Etihad Arena, the UAE’s largest indoor venue to date with an 18,000 fan capacity.
There’s no doubt that many great names will return to the city, and that the next big names will come too.
What do you think? Who would you like to see next? And who would you love to come back?