Etihad Arena was the venue with which Abu Dhabi’s live entertainment industry plotted its post-pandemic recovery during 2021’s Eid Al Fitr holiday. One year on from that series of small but well-received concerts featuring Arab pop stars Tamer Hosny and Assala Nasri, its rejuvenation is near complete.
Not only does the arena now sit within the new and glitzy culinary and leisure hub Yas Bay, it is also home to some of the biggest concerts and festivals of the year. That sense of renewal permeated the venue during Wednesday’s concert with Iraqi crooner Kadim Al Sahir and follow-up act, Egypt’s Sherine Abdel-Wahab.
The gig was the second in a bumper week of shows, which included Egyptian singer Amr Diab’s concert the previous evening, and includes US pop group Maroon 5's coming show, set for Friday. A sense of occasion was also felt as roving camera crews captured the action for pan-Arab television broadcaster MBC.
Scroll through the gallery above for more pictures from the concert.
The pairing of Al Sahir and Abdel-Wahab proved shrewd business. While both veteran artists have their own sound, they have a cross-generational appeal that's become increasingly rare in Arabic pop music today.
Backed by their own mini orchestras, they delivered crowd-pleasing sets. While Al Sahir was all class and poise, it took him a while to warm up. Hinting to the crowd that rehearsals may not have been up to scratch, it took a couple of tracks to gel with the ensemble.
Once they clicked, as with the soaring Al Hayat, Al Sahir was enchanting as he presented epic and operatic tracks filled with stirring classical Arabic poetry.
The lilting Ahbini, possibly one of the most romantic Arabic pop songs ever released, was sublime and elicited two crowd members rushing the barriers to hand him bouquets of flowers.
Meanwhile the Iraqi dabke-inspired Al Helwa, the response to Khaleeji pop tune Yegi Al Lail, showed that Al Sahir can loosen up, providing a welcome relief from some of the stark balladry.
While the media-shy crooner mostly keeps the drama to his tracks, Abdel-Wahab’s career has been tumultuous. She has had disputes with her former management and mental health struggles forced her to temporarily retire in 2016.
With her concert schedule becoming few and far between, it was satisfying to see her back on stage.
Her pop-centric approach is relatively lightweight in comparison to Al Sahir, but the Egyptian singer's body of work contains dramatic high notes, such as the cinematic Mashaer and the exquisite ballad Minak Lil Lah.
Concluding the evening at midnight, her heartfelt reaction to the roaring audience was moving.