Mohamed Ramadan and Wiz Khalifa: Saudi Arabia Grand Prix concerts are a mixed bag

The after-race concerts took place at the purpose-built venue beside Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Wiz Khalifa performing at the 2022 F1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah. Photo: Instagram / wizkhalifa
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Mohamed Ramadan, we need to talk.

The Egyptian superstar's faltering Saudi Arabia Grand Prix after-race concert on Saturday shows his performance needs a serious tune-up to reach pole position in the pop music game.

Sure, Ramadan has sold out shows in front of hundreds of thousands in his native Egypt, as well as filling out arenas in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

But the Formula One is an international affair separating the stars from the wannabes.

Scroll through the below for photos of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix qualifying races:

While Ramadan often says to the regional press that he's “number one”, it is when paired with artists such as the preceding act Wiz Khalifa, who has a couple of international chart-toppers, that you realise Ramadan’s stage show is not up to scratch.

The key issue is not charisma and flair, which Ramadan has in spades. It is that his stagecraft lacks the wit and intelligence of his songs and music videos.

Instead, what we had was a hodgepodge of a show careening widely from Bollywood-style dance to '90s-era pop stylings.

Backed by a dozen dancers, Ramadan performed the songs with pre-recorded tracks so loud it was hard to distinguish when he was actually singing.

Tracks such as Mafia and El Doneh Madrsah were turned into a kind of mass dance routine resembling Salman Khan's stage show Da-Banng, only without any context to the songs themselves.

Another let down was the show’s pacing.

Ramadan’s full-throttled approach in the opening 15 minutes rendered him quickly out of breath and the crowd endured a lengthy wait filled with various routines by back-up dancers.

This all presents Ramadan with the biggest challenge to his music career.

Where personality and screen presence have resulted in great recordings and eye-catching music videos, it is on the stage where aspiring pop stars need to prove their mettle.

Judging by his show at the Jeddah F1 after-race concert, undoubtedly his biggest international event to date, Ramadan is currently way off pace.

Wiz Khalifa gave a lesson on how it’s done

Wiz Khalifa demonstrated what it takes to command a festival audience even though he took to the massive stage with only a DJ.

The US star was on fine form, tearing through an hour’s worth of certified pop hits and hip-hop anthems with that lackadaisical charm and vocal delivery that has him viewed as the heir to Snoop Dogg.

The barrelling club hit Black and Yellow, with its triumphant synths, had die-hard fans pogoing at the front, while career-defining tracks See You Again and Young Wild and Free sparked the kind of mass sing-along that was needed to release the tension of what was a fraught day of racing.

A lavish concert experience

With the evening capped off by a 2am set from Swedish DJ Axwell, the Saudi Arabia F1 after-race concerts, back in its second iteration, are fast establishing the event as a regional destination for music lovers.

Curated by MDL Beast, the Saudi company behind the mammoth Soundstorm festival in Riyadh in December, the event was lavish to form.

The purpose-built, V-shaped outdoor venue is located a 20-minute walk from the general admission zones to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The stage looks spectacular with an abstract design that had the artists performing in the middle of what resembles a pair of fists.

The VIP seats in the back — open to Paddock Club ticket holders and other premium tiers — also come with a large international buffet with its own ice cream and popcorn stand.

With several entry points, general admission ticket holders have plenty of options to access and leave the venue, with shuttle buses to car parks and Uber and Careem stations.

According to concertgoers The National spoke to on Saturday, these enhanced features offered a marked improvement on the inaugural after-race concerts in December, which was marred by logistical issues.

The concerts finish on Sunday, with another triple bill beginning with RnB star Chris Brown, hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas and Moroccan-Dutch DJ R3hab.

The Saudi Arabia Grand Prix after-race concerts runs until Sunday. More information is available at Saudiarabiangp.com

Updated: March 27, 2022, 12:09 PM
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