The band were en route to the UAE to perform on the final night of the Yasalam After-Race Concert series.
In an exclusive interview with The National, concert promoter John Lickrish recalled receiving the news at 2.30am UAE time on Friday.
The band flew by private plane from Los Angeles to Chicago, where they would then board an Etihad Airways flight direct to Abu Dhabi.
Lickrish said he thought the phone call was confirmation that everything was going according to plan.
“It was the band’s management telling me that once the plane landed a member of the band had to be rushed to a hospital in Chicago,” he said.
“My immediate reaction was to see if the person and the band were OK. Then the situation really hit me because the advance team from the Foo Fighters were already here in Abu Dhabi. The show was being set up, even the band’s gear had arrived.”
After exhausting all avenues, Flash Entertainment announced a no-show on their social media channels at 3pm on Saturday with an added statement from Foo Fighters: “The band apologises for any inconvenience or disappointment caused by this unexpected turn of events.”
Foo Fighters have yet to officially comment on social media.
By the time the news was released, Lickrish and his team were 12 hours into their search for a suitable replacement for Sunday’s concert, which eventually resulted in a double bill of EDM stars Martin Garrix and DJ Snake.
“We started first by looking at the time zones,” Lickrish said. “It was nearly 3am in Abu Dhabi and that meant it was the afternoon in Los Angeles. It was also nearly midnight in London. We started calling the music agents and managers that we know to see who was available and could pull off a big show at short notice. We were drawing up a list.”
Lickrish said he contacted the teams behind some of pop music’s biggest names, only to find the travel logistics insurmountable.
"We reached out directly to Coldplay who said they would love to come but with the whole Covid-19 thing in London it was difficult. I messaged Drake's manager directly and he wrote back one word: impossible," he said.
"We were close to getting Liam Gallagher as well, but the lack of flights available and preparation time was also a challenge.”
Lickrish's team also reached out to some of the talents who were already on the ground.
“We immediately thought of Alicia Keys but by the time we contacted her manager said she was already on her flight to the US,” he says. “And we realised that Martin Garrix and DJ Snake, both massive EDM stars in their own right – and who I would be happy to headline any festival – were already here and interested.”
Lickrish said both acts, as fans of Abu Dhabi F1, jumped at the opportunity.
“If you remember Garrix was playing a club show in 2017 as part of the racing weekend. We invited him to our booth that time to see one of the after-race concerts and immediately asked when he can play on a stage like that,” Lickrish said.
“We have also been in talks with DJ Snake’s team for a while. He enjoys the event and this was the perfect opportunity.”
Lickrish said he understood the disappointment some fans may feel because of the change.
“Believe me, getting the Foo Fighters has been a dream come true for me because I am a massive fan first and foremost. So, when we couldn’t do the show it was a like a gut punch,” he says.
“But I just want people to know that they were coming. Their team was already here and it took a health emergency to cancel it. I wish the band very well, and I feel Garrix and DJ Snake will do a great show tonight."
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures from UK rapper Stormzy's performance at the Yasala After- Race Concert: