From Beyonce to Stormzy: 45 artists who played at the Abu Dhabi F1 After-Race Concerts

The Yasalam live music series has featured eclectic acts spanning pop, funk, rock, rap and Arabic pop

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The resumption of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 after-race concerts this year means the return of one of the UAE's longest running music events.

Since the beginning of the inaugural race in 2009, live music has played an integral role in the weekend with up to four concerts staged at the end of each day at Etihad Park.

While the artist line-up, ranging from pop star Beyonce and rapper Stormzy to rockers The Who and Aerosmith may appear random, seasoned F1 concertgoers will spot a pattern stretching right back to the inaugural Yasalam After-Race Concerts.

"Normally on Thursdays we try to do something for a younger audience,” says John Lickrish, chief executive and founder of event company Flash Entertainment. “Then on Friday, we ramp up the energy even further, and on Saturday we try to add something more mellow and soulful.

“And when it comes to Sunday, it is all about that big emotional release and it’s an artist with a huge catalogue of anthems that really gets the crowd involved.”

That playbook is neatly illustrated with this year’s concert offerings, featuring RnB star Khalid on Thursday, grime rapper Stormzy on Friday, British soul singer Lewis Capaldi on Saturday, before an epic race day show on Sunday with rock titans, Foo Fighters.

Those artists joined 41 other international acts in making their Abu Dhabi Formula One debut with shows big and small, loud and mellow, brilliant and, in few cases, underwhelming.

We head down memory lane to look back at those who have taken to the stage at Etihad Park since 2009 ...

1. Beyonce (October 29, 2009)

Not only was the gig part of her first solo world tour, but the burgeoning pop star's show was the biggest of the tour, says Lickrish.

Nearly 40,000 people packed Etihad Park to see Bey perform a selection of solo hits including Crazy in Love and Irreplaceable, and a fiery medley of Destiny's Child tracks including Say My Name and Survivor.

2. Jamiroquai (October 30, 2009)

While the UK group only played a handful of shows that year, they were a well-oiled machine in Abu Dhabi with a sparkling set that took off with the stomping The Kids and went on to include favourites Little L and Canned Heat.

The sextet ended the show with the one-two punch of Love Foolosophy and Deeper Undergound, transforming Etihad Park into a mammoth open-air club.

3. Kings of Leon (October 31, 2009)

The US rockers made their debut performance in the Middle East on the back of a tour supporting their fourth album Only by the Night.

Released two months before the Abu Dhabi gig, the crowd were able to hear fresh takes on hits Sex on Fire and Use Somebody.

4. Aerosmith (November 1, 2009)

The historic inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend ended with the US rockers performing a greatest hits set which included Walk this Way and I Don't Want to Miss a Thing.

The performance helped set the course for future Abu Dhabi Formula One race day concerts, in that they mostly comprised artists with a big catalogue of anthems.

5. Kanye West (November 12, 2010)

It can be argued that West was at his prime during this period. Fresh off the back of career best album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the rapper performed a commanding set including album bangers Monster and Power, in addition to fan favourites Diamonds from Sierra Leone and Touch the Sky.

6. Linkin Park (November 13, 2010)

A bittersweet experience for seasoned UAE concertgoers, with Linkin Park singer, the late Chester Bennington, in roaring form as he tore through many of the band's powerful anthems including What I've Done and In the End.

The group ended their show with their hit, One Step Closer.

7. Prince (November 14, 2010)

The Purple One began the gig with the storming 1984 hit Let's Go Crazy, and the crowd responded in kind in what has come to be viewed as one of the UAE's greatest ever concerts.

Backed by cracking musicians, Prince delivered a celebratory set including Little Red Corvette and Raspberry Beret, in addition to covers of Chic's Le Freak and Sarah McLachlan ballad Angel.

The show featured up to four encores, including a guest appearance by The Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger for the Sheila E. cover, A Love Bizarre.

8. Britney Spears (November 11, 2011)

The pop diva was not at her best in Abu Dhabi. Despite an enthusiastic crowd, Spears went through the motions in a surprisingly short 70-minute show that was high on choreography but low on energy.

While the hits were performed, they were bizarrely cut short for medleys, including a completely unnecessary fusion of Baby One More Time with Rihanna's S&M.

9. Incubus and The Cult (November 12, 2011)

One of the oddest Abu Dhabi Grand Prix shows to date. With a major rock act pulling out in the figurative last minutes before the big day, promoters Flash Entertainment hustled to pull together a show worthy for rock fans.

On paper, nu-metal group Incubus and goth-rockers The Cult are both successful in their own right, but putting them back to back in one night seemed too random for even the most eclectic listener.

It arguably remains, one of the smallest crowds to attend an after-race concert.

10. Paul McCartney (November 13, 2011)

The greatest ever Abu Dhabi Formula One gig is a close tie between Prince in 2010 and Paul McCartney. Even if the Beatle delivered those timeless group and solo hits half-heartedly, it still would have been a great gig.

But McCartney, 69 years old at the time, was more than up for it and was in fine voice in an epic 37-song set which featured The Beatles' Hey Jude and Get Back, Wings favourite Jet and Live and Let Die, and solo classic Maybe I'm Amazed.

11. Kylie Minogue (November 2, 2012)

Opening with the hit Wow and ending with modern pop classic Spinning Around, the Aussie pop star was all class and verve in what was a great performance.

Minogue kept it fun and breezy throughout the night and fortunately jettisoned the snooze-worthy material from her ill-fated dalliance with electronica and trip hop in the early 2000s for the jubilant sounds of Kids and the ever-green classic The Loco-Motion.

12. Nickelback (November 3, 2012)

The surprising thing is that perennial rock punchlines Nickelback are far more fun than they get credit for. Critics deride the group for peddling second-rate grunge, but live, the group look further back to the glam acts of the 1980s.

The big hit Something in Your Mouth is a modern-day version of Motley Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls, while Bottoms Up is the kind of stomping hard-rock Poison rode to fame on.

Nickelback performed these songs well enough, with lead singer Chad Kroeger in fine voice.

13. Eminem (November 4, 2012)

Eminem's thrilling set at du Arena confirmed his status as a pop phenomenon and was a great illustration of hip-hop's growth from street corners to stadium-filling spectaculars.

Backed by an eight-piece band and hype man Mr Porter (also known as the Kon Artist from rap collective D12), Eminem stepped onstage to the urgent riffs of Won't Back Down before launching into the forceful 3 a.m..

While intensely chewing up the stage throughout the show, levity was regularly supplied with big anthems I Need a Doctor and Love The Way You Lie.

A Dr Dre-produced medley of My Name Is and The Real Slim Shady was performed before the set was rounded off with Without Me, Not Afraid and the encore Lose Yourself - the latter cementing itself as the Eye of the Tiger for this generation.

14. Amr Diab, Elissa and Hussain Al Jassmi (October 31, 2013)

One of the first of a short-lived run of Arabic Abu Dhabi Formula One after-race concerts featuring an all-star line-up.

Egyptian pop-star Amr Diab led a strong bill including Lebanese singer Elissa and Emirati Hussain Al Jassmi (the latter two are teaming up once again for a New Year’s Eve concert in Abu Dhabi this month) for a hit-filled night representing the best of the genre.

15. Jay Z (November 1, 2013)

After an increasing number of bloated album releases, the superstar went back to basics when he stepped onto the stage at Etihad Park. With the exception of the strobe lights and LED screens, Jay Z's stage presence was deliberately stripped down.

Only four musicians - including special guest and music giant in his own right, Timbaland, on the keys and beat machine - stood behind on an elevated stage.

With such a relatively simple set-up the only way Jay Z could engage the large Etihad Park field was through pure energy.

This is what he did brilliantly, with a kinetic set that had the crowd on their feet. Swaggering on to the symphonic backdrop of Higher, Jay Z tore into the thumping set including You Don't Know, On to the Next One and 99 Problems.

Even a 10-minute stage blackout due to a technical glitch didn't detract from what was a triumphant performance.

16. Muse (November 2, 2013)

Another left field choice for the event but a welcome one. British prog rockers Muse took us outer space with their dense and cinematic sounds that's both ethereal and thunderous.

From Supermassive Black Hole and United States of Eurasia to Madness and Unnatural Selection, they managed to retain the audience's attention throughout their challenging set due to their exhilarating musicianship.

17. Depeche Mode (November 3, 2013)

This was no warm and fuzzy trip down memory lane, a la Paul McCartney in 2011. The goth kings reminded us they are still a dark musical force by opening the show with tracks from their latest album, Delta Machine.

The bruising opener Welcome to My World relied on singer Dave Gahan’s crystalline vocals to inject some much-needed light into the aural gloom.

The group’s vintage synth sounds came to the fore in Policy of Truth before Martin Gore took the lead and performed a torch-song version of the fan favourite Shake the Disease.

Rounding off with an encore featuring the sprightly Just Can’t Get Enough, the hard-rocking Feel You and the kiss-off Never Let You Down Again, the Mode proved they are in no danger of slowing down.

18. Tamer Hosny, Carole Samaha, Fayez Al Saeed and Mohammed Assaf (November 20, 2014)

Another bumper bill of Arab pop talent was on offer to start the Abu Dhabi Formula One music festivities that year. While Lebanon’s Carole Samaha and Egyptian Tamer Hosny provided hits stretching back two decades, the star of the night was undoubtedly Assaf.

The Palestinian was still coasting off the international acclaim from winning the 2013 season of Arab Idol, and fans were out in force for what was then his biggest Abu Dhabi show to date.

19. Armin Van Buuren (November 21, 2014)

It was the year EDM was formally invited to the Formula One party in Abu Dhabi – when trance music survivor Armin van Buuren became the first DJ to headline the Yasalam After-Race Concerts.

The Dutchman brought his club staples – such as Communication and Blue Fear – and a blinding light show for a memorable set that enshrined dance music's place in subsequent years.

20. Pharrell Williams (November 22, 2014)

A Middle East debut best described as hit and miss.

As a distillation of his amazing career – from solo tracks to hits produced for others – it was an awe-inspiring confirmation that Pharrell Williams could perhaps be the Quincy Jones for the streaming generation.

As a performer, however, he lacked the showmanship and charisma needed to carry off an arena show – and the fact his voice gave out three-quarters of the way through didn’t help.

21. The Who (November 23, 2014)

If volume is a statement of intent, then The Who arrived in Abu Dhabi with big intentions.

The influential British rockers were in emphatic form with decibel piercing opening renditions of I Can't Explain, Substitute and Who Are You?

With Roger Daltrey's bluesy roar in top form and guitarist Pete Townshend's riffs as crushing as they were lyrical, The Who played one of the loudest shows of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

22. Cheb Khaled, Fares Karam and Aryam (November 26, 2015)

The third and currently last all-Arabic pop concert held as part of the Yasalam Abu Dhabi After-Race Concerts series.

This time around Cheb Khaled was the undoubted star of the show with a typically exuberant take on his native Algerian folk music tradition of Rai. Also performing was Fares Karam, who showcased his stature as one of the leading purveyors of Dabka-inspired Lebanese pop.

Making a welcome appearance was Emirati singer Aryam with a comeback show after more than a year away from the stage.

23. Enrique Iglesias (November 27, 2015)

The Spanish star’s songbook of evergreen international hits proved an ideal fit for the casual Grand Prix crowd. But more than anything, Iglesias won Abu Dhabi over with his charm – and the heartthrob had it in spades.

From the bangers I'm a Freak and I Like How It Feels to the Spanish pop of Bailamos and stirring ballad Hero, Iglesias was an energetic presence and managed to pull off a euphoric set.

This is all the more impressive, considering he was met with a slightly disgruntled crowd after taking to the stage nearly 40 minutes late.

24. Florence + the Machine (November 28, 2015)

Florence Welch didn't walk onto the stage of Etihad Park. Instead, it seemed like she floated, with her long flared trousers and puffy blue blouse trailing behind her.

Backed by "the Machine," an 11-piece group of singers, guitarists, harpists and drummers, the ethereal singer and group cast a spell on the Abu Dhabi crowd with songs swinging from baroque-pop to progressive and histrionic rock.

Highlights include the brazen Ship to Wreck and the crowd favourite Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up).

Soulful and eccentric, Florence + the Machine were on point.

25. Blur (November 29, 2015)

With the veteran Britpop group reforming six months prior to their Abu Dhabi debut, the band felt rejuvenated with a swaggering set featuring 1990s favourites Girls and Boys and Park Life, and tracks from new album The Magic Whip.

UAE fans even got a treat with Blur performing Country House, reportedly the first time they'd played their sole UK No 1 hit on tour that year.

26. Pitbull (November 24, 2016)

One of the less remarkable shows of the Abu Dhabi Formula One, with the Cuban-American rapper Pitbull functioning at half speed at Etihad Park.

While backed by a gaggle of dancers, and clad in a designer suit and shades, "Mr Worldwide" seemed disconnected throughout the set and played second fiddle to many of his own songs. An affliction that could be blamed on the amount of guest vocalists he employs, so much so that his own raps seemed an afterthought in tracks such as International Love and Hey Baby (Drop it to the Floor).

27. The Chemical Brothers (November 25, 2016)

“Hey boy, hey girl, superstar DJs – here we go.” So began The Chemical Brothers' 1999 smash Hey Boy Hey Girl – which launched the British dance duo's Abu Dhabi gig.

The Chemical Brothers delivered an uncompromising 90-minute set drawing from more than two decades of work.

A key moment was the back-to-back arrival of hits Galvanise and Block Rockin' Beats. Delivered casually without pomp, the duo showcased how electronic music can maintain the integrity of a club performance in an open-air arena.

28. Lionel Richie (November 26, 2016)

A promoters dream, Lionel Richie has been giving the fans what they want for decades without missing a beat.

Once again, the singer-songwriter delivered the goods with an all-killer, no-filler set of hits from his imperial 1980s chartbusting period as well as his time with funk group Commodores.

Delivered with conviction, tender tracks Easy and Stuck on You gave us the feels while party anthems All Night Long and Dancing on the Ceiling had the perfect mix of energy and irony to make for a wonderful evening.

29. Rihanna (November 27, 2016)

The Bajan superstar delivered a slick yet engaging set that catered to the eyes as much as the ears. With a startling backdrop of brooding lights and large screens with evocative imagery, RiRi's show featured plenty of tracks from her experimental album Anti.

Set highlights included the anthem Love the Way You Lie, the abrasive beats of Birthday Cake and the tropical treat that is Rude Boy.

Rihanna's Abu Dhabi show remains her last official tour performance, with the singer spending the ensuing years turning her fashion and beauty Fenty lines into a global success.

30. Calvin Harris (November 23, 2017)

With lasers, fire and smoke, one of the world's highest paid DJs managed to seamlessly transition songs from top hits on the billboards to fan favourites – such as the remix of House of Pain's Jump Around – to keep the energy going throughout the night.

Other tracks featured in the set included My Way and Sweet Nothing, all serving to prove how Harris dominated radio and clubland at the time.

31. J Cole (November 24, 2017)

A replacement for fellow hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, who pulled out weeks before the show, J Cole more than managed to assuage the disappointment.

Dressed in a white Bob Marley shirt and tracksuit pants, Cole began his set with the brooding For Whom The Bell Tolls, which had him swiftly moving from a smooth croon to forceful rapping.

Next up was Immortal, in which Cole looks back at his turbulent childhood over a stuttering bass heavy beat. By the time the soothing Vile Mentality came along, with its mix of spoken word and soulful vocals, the crowd were with him all the way.

32. Mumford & Sons (November, 25, 2017)

The London-based folk-rock troubadours were an intriguing prospect, considering they come after the two commercial radio friendly pop acts of Calvin Harris and J Cole.

Could they sustain the energy created by their peers? Well, just about, with a solid set showcasing their deft interplay of double bass, violin, guitar and bass.

While Little Lion Man and I Will Wait got a warm response from the crowd, Mumford & Sons's gig can be charitably described as a fans-only affair.

33. Pink (November, 26, 2017)

No wonder the US pop star elected to stay away from the celebrity action of the Yas Marina Circuit earlier in the day in order to prepare for the show.

With the high-end production and acrobatics, let alone belting out nearly two decades’ worth of hits, the singer had a lot on her plate when stepping into the arena.

Fortunately, she handled it all with aplomb, delivering a show that was both joyful and feisty. From the rousing Let's Get the Party Started and U + Ur Hand, to the rollicking Trouble, Pink illustrated why she remains one pop music's biggest live draws.

34. Post Malone (November 22, 2018)

Throughout his 70-minute show, Malone was a riot of contradictions: his trademark slacker attitude perfectly represented in his choice of stage costume: pyjamas. But he is still a hip-hop lover, so those expensive sneakers were there for all to see.

Sometimes claiming to be a hip-hop artist, Malone was not joined on stage by an accompanying DJ. Instead, he did it solo – literally.

With two dozen spotlights behind, as well as a large screen, a solitary Malone carried the show himself as he sang instrumental version of his hits, including White Iverson and Better Now.

It was a risky move that ultimately paid off.

It allowed us to move past the pointless musical debates and his penchant for face tattoos – he has “always” and “tired" inked beneath each eye – and focus on his talent instead.

35. The Weeknd (November 23, 2018)

After years of playing small clubs in the UAE, The Weeknd returned to perform his biggest show yet. Armed with hits from successful album Starboy, the Canadian stayed true to the stark aesthetic of the release with minimal stage design and powerful light show.

From Pray for Me and Secrets to I Can't Feel My Face, The Weeknd remained cool at all times, his aloof onstage persona making for an intriguing juxtaposition with the emotionally wrenching material of the songs. A low-key triumph.

36. Sam Smith (November 24, 2018)

Nearly a decade on, we have become used to the Saturday slot often reserved for a low-key act, so the crowd knew what to expect from Sam Smith.

While the UK crooner delivered the customary ballads, such as Money on my Mind, they showed us they are capable of being at home with upbeat electro tracks, such as the Calvin Harris-produced Promises and the jazzy Omen, with UK dance duo Disclosure.

That balance of both sounds resulted in a well-received set that should have broken some misconceptions surrounding the singer – the main one being Smith doesn't always sound miserable.

37. Guns N’ Roses (November 25, 2018)

A show that left frustrated fans wondering what could have been.

The rock behemoths were on their way to deliver another blazing show as part of their epic world tour, with winning takes of It's So Easy and Mr Brownstone and a wonderfully demented version of Welcome to the Jungle, only for the concert to falter due to singer Axl Rose feeling visibly unwell.

Despite that, the band managed to play nearly 90 minutes without an encore that would have normally featured fan favourites Paradise City and Night Train.

That said, while ultimately underwhelming, one has to admire Rose for keeping the show running as much as he could.

38. Marshmello (November 28, 2019)

The bucket-headed DJ played in front of one of the youngest crowds at an Abu Dhabi Formula One concert.

With children standing on the shoulders of parents, and enthusiastic teenagers there in droves, Marshmello played TikTok-friendly favourites including Selena Gomez collaboration Wolves and the slinky rhythms of Friends with Anne-Marie.

It all served to conjure a party atmosphere that was a fitting way to start off the year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix music weekend.

39. Future and Gucci Mane (November 29, 2019)

Such is the star power of controversial rapper Travis Scott that it took two strong artists to replace him when Scott pulled out for personal reasons.

Rappers Future and Gucci Mane turned Etihad Park into a super-sized club with separate one hour slots. While Mane’s set was sloppy at times, it was Future who seized the moment.

His swaggering set, featuring hits Pluto and Mask Off, was vibrant, serving as a reminder that he is only a couple of hits short of becoming an arena act in his own right.

40. Lana Del Rey (November 30, 2019)

The show confirmed Del Rey is a big deal in the Mena region. After a previous sold-out show in Beirut back in 2013, the US singer was taken aback by the raucous reception from a crowd who had descended on Abu Dhabi from all corners of the Middle East.

Fan posters were projected across the screens stating they travelled from Saudi Arabia and Jordan to see their musical hero, and what was delivered was a show that divided opinion.

If you were a fan, then Del Rey was a hazy dream come true. If you were not, you might have been bored to tears. And if you were the casual concertgoer, it was a slightly underwhelming affair with occasional flashes of brilliance.

41. The Killers (November 30, 2019)

The Las Vegas rockers took to the Etihad Park stage almost a decade ago to the day since their last appearance in Abu Dhabi. By this time, the group were one of world's biggest rock bands with more than a dozen hits to their name.

Confident of their material, The Killers opened their set with the, well, killer, opening trio of Jenny was a Friend of Mine, Spaceman and Somebody Told Me.

The hits continued to roll on for what was another successful conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Formula One weekend.

Little did we know, the show marked the last after-race concert for about two years.

42. Khalid (December 9, 2021)

Khalid's performance was both a soulful way to begin the Abu Dhabi F1 party and an emotional return for UAE music lovers to Etihad Park after more than two years.

Arriving in Abu Dhabi after a low-key Bahrain show a couple of days prior, Khalid was in smooth form and was joined by dancers as he performed hits 8teen and Twenty-One.

"Hi Abu Dhabi," he said. “It’s my first time in the UAE and I’m so happy to be here. Thank you Abu Dhabi for so much love."

The singer went on to perform Hundred and American Teen to a big reception before ending the set with early hit Saturday Nights.

43. Stormzy (December 10, 2021)

Stormzy came back to the UAE and picked up where he left off. Seventeen months after a set at Redfest DXB in Dubai, the British grime rapper headlined the second of the four Abu Dhabi F1 after-race concerts at Etihad Park.

“I have been looking for this show for so long,” Stormzy said. “It has been a long time since I have been on stage like this … let's make this a great memory for us with dance, vibes and energy.”

Simply put: the man is happy to be back.

With a DJ in the background and the venue brought to life with evocative lightning and high-tech visuals, Stormzy pounced on stage to the imperial-sounding horn blasts of opener Big Michael, a strident motivational anthem fit for the times.

From the energy thanks to hits such as Audacity and Own It, the crowd was with him all the way.

44. Lewis Capaldi (December 11, 2021)

"Abu Dhabi are you ready to party?” Scottish crooner Lewis Capaldi asked at the start of his show, a tongue-in-cheek comment considering the ballad heavy nature of his work.

That said, the singer-songwriter performed a set full of good vibes courtesy of singalongs like Forever and the lovely Maybe.

Proving to be the ultimate charmer, halfway through the concert, Capaldi brought out a member of his crew to celebrate his birthday on stage.

45. Martin Garrix and DJ Snake (December 12, 2021)

In a day of high drama on and off the Yas Marina Circuit, concert promoters were forced to look for a last-minute substitute act after rock group Foo Fighters cancelled owing to a medical emergency.

After contacting artists far and wide, it was decided that the coveted race-day gig will be headlined by two of EDM's biggest stars.

Martin Garrix and DJ Snake performed back-to-back sets and helped release the tension after a nail-biting race.

Enjoying the party the most was undoubtedly Red Bull racer Max Verstappen, the newly crowned Formula One champion was spotted on stage partying with fellow Dutchman Garrix.

Updated: December 13, 2021, 3:30 PM