OneRepublic in Abu Dhabi: pure pop perfection, plus a medley of Ryan Tedder's finest hits

American group open inaugural Amplified Music Festival with a show bursting with magical moments

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“This is a love song I wrote … for Jay-Z,” announced OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder.

In a show packed with surprises, the American band delivered their catchy anthems with plenty of oomph at Abu Dhabi’s inaugural Amplified Music Festival.

And none were more intriguing than his rendition of Beyonce’s Halo, which he wrote for her after she called him out of the blue to express her adoration for her rapper partner.

“She said I want you to write a song for this guy I love,” Tedder said. “I didn’t know she was dating anyone, so I Googled it.

“It turns out she was seeing Jay-Z. So this is what I wrote for him.”

Ryan Tedder, right, led OneRepublic during the band's first Abu Dhabi appearance. Victor Besa / The National

Opening the two-night event at Yas Links, Yas Island, on Friday, the band took to the stage in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000.

Energetic singer Tedder — sharp, polished and dressed in black — arrived to thunderous cheers before blasting through OneRepublic's many radio-friendly hits.

Their back catalogue is a mix of cutesy rock (too many guitars to be considered simply pop, too many string instruments to be considered anything harder) and Calvin Harris-style clubby beats, with some piano solos thrown in for good measure.

It is the second festival at the site in as many weeks, with fans flocking to the capital for the first time since almost all Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. A fortnight ago, despite Liam Gallagher pulling out at the eleventh hour, the show went on at Club Social with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Clean Bandit and Example performing.

Amplified kept the tempo going by welcoming OneRepublic back to the UAE during their first world tour, and the band started off the night by diving straight into Kids and Good Life. “We’ve played Dubai more times than we can count,” said Tenner after 10 minutes on stage. “This is the first time we’ve been lucky enough to perform in Abu Dhabi. It’s the beginning of the concert and I’m already telling you that we’ll be back.”

They continued through Stop and Stare, from the break-out 2007 album Dreaming Out Loud, and the more recent Rescue Me. And, that’s when Tedder teed up a “special surprise” was to come.

Despite forming in 2002 and rising through the ranks of MySpace (remember that?) as an unsigned act, the band only really took off after the release of Dreaming Out Loud and hit single Apologize.

A sold-out crowd of 6,000 attended the inaugural Amplified Music Festival at Yas Links, Yas Island. Victor Besa / The National

Alongside the band's 15-year career, Tedder has carved out a name for himself as one of the greatest pop songwriters of his era, penning the aforementioned Halo alongside Adele's Rumour Has It, Leona Lewis's Bleeding Love and Ellie Goulding's Burn, to name a few. Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers and Demi Levato join the list of stars he's worked with. And, having promised “good vibes only tonight”, Tedder seized the opportunity to play a medley of his finest hits made famous by others.

The crowd, needless to say, roared along in delight as he took to the piano and flaunted his exceptional vocal range — the man is a phenomenal talent.

Aside from one recent rogue journalist (“no, I won’t say who or what country we were in”), who thought they were turning up to see One Direction, the band drew in delighted fans aged from 7 months to 70 years.

Top Gun star Tom Cruise appeared on a giant video screen to introduce I Ain’t Worried, which, again, Tedder was specifically asked to write, before OneRepublic finished off the evening with the likes of Counting Stars and If I Lose Myself.

Amplified continues on Saturday with fellow American group Cas. With any luck, they’ll extend yet another love story the wizarding writer Tedder delivered for fans. It's not all for Jay-Z, of course.

Amplified Music Festival returns on Saturday, doors open at 7pm. Tickets, priced from Dh149, are available to buy at livenation.me

Updated: November 12, 2022, 8:13 AM