Are U2 set for a UAE and Saudi Arabian tour?

Looking at the Irish band’s tour schedule, they could be in the region to perform as part of the Formula One and Formula E after-race concerts.

Singer Bono of U2 performs during a concert at the Apollo Theater hosted by SiriusXM on Monday, June 11, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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Are Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia set for beautiful days with potential race-day concerts by U2?

The signs seem to point that way, judging by the tour schedule of the Irish rock giants.

A scan of their recently announced upcoming Australian and Asian tour finds a neat one-week gap between their last Australian show on November 27 in Perth and their first Tokyo date on December 4.

The Abu Dhabi F1 after-race concerts series is comprised of four shows at the Du Arena. The first gig begins on Thursday November 28 and concludes with the Sunday race-day concert on December 1.

If U2 are indeed confirmed for their debut UAE appearance, then they will be a shoo-in to headline the final concert on December 1. As of yet, the only artist confirmed to perform as part of the series is US rapper Travis Scott on November 29.

When it comes to a potential show in Saudi Arabia, U2’s schedule also allows a possible after-race concert as part of the Ad Diriyah E-Prix.

Last December’s successful inaugural race saw performances by Enrique Iglesias and The Black Eyed Peas. The soon-to-be-announced event is tipped to return bigger and better around late November when U2 have that week off.

While rumours of a regional U2 concert go back five years, this time around a number of factors are in play to make this year the best chance of nabbing the rock legends. Here are five reasons why:

1. U2 are following an established concert route used by Abu Dhabi F1 acts

Abu Dhabi F1 concert promoters Flash Entertainment have a history of luring F1 acts that either completed or were about to begin an Australian and Asian tour.

Last year, the UK soul singer Sam Smith arrived in Abu Dhabi on the back of shows Down Under. While R'n'B crooner The Weeknd used the capital – just like U2 could do – as a launch pad for an Asian tour. In 2015 Florence and the Machine finished their Australian tour in Abu Dhabi, while Nickleback’s roaring show in 2012 was the first of a month-long tour going the other way.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES,  November 03, 2012. `Nickelback plays at the Du Arena on Yas Island as part of the F1 weekend entertainment. (ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, November 03, 2012. `Nickelback plays at the Du Arena on Yas Island as part of the F1 weekend entertainment. (ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National)

Even Beyonce’s now legendary set as part of the inaugural Abu Dhabi F1 in 2009 came on the back of a completed Australian and Asian tour.

All of this points to U2’s private jet landing in our neck of the desert later in the year.

2. Follow the money

For the last 11 years, U2’s blockbuster world tours have been done in partnership with powerful entertainment company Live Nation. Their 12-year agreement, reportedly worth an estimated $100 million (Dh367,250,000), gives Live Nation control of the band's merchandise and official website.

The Abu Dhabi F1 and Saudi Arabian Formula E connection lies in Live Nation’s owner, Liberty Media.  In 2016, the US based company shook up the racing industry by buying the Formula One Group, which is responsible for running the F1 racing championship. Liberty Media also has a significant stake in the Formula E racing championship.

Speaking to Abu Dhabi F1 racing official last year, The National were told that Liberty Media plan to ramp up the entertainment offerings across all races. What better way to fulfill that promise by getting the world's biggest rock band to perform in a couple of high profile races this year?

3. U2 is always the one for Abu Dhabi F1 promoter

Flash Entertainment chief executive John Lickrish may have brought the likes of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and The Who to perform in Abu Dhabi, but he always had his eyes set on bringing Bono and co to perform in the capital.

In a 2016 interview with The National, he said that a U2 show in the capital has been discussed for some time. "Bono has been to Abu Dhabi and I know the people he has met with," he said. "They are looking to play this region because they haven't done so before. It would be the worst-kept secret in the world, if it does happen."

4. A U2 concert will cement Saudi Arabia’s place as a touring destination

A U2 concert as part of the Formula E race is well in line with the kingdom’s government body, the Saudi Entertainment Authority, plans to transform the country into a regional entertainment and cultural hub.

Saudi Arabia has wasted no time backing up that promise by already bringing a slew world-class music concerts to the kingdom. The last 12 months saw likes of stars Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, Tiesto, Sean Paul and Akon all performing in various Saudi cities.

5. U2 have been asked to play as part of the Formula One since 2009

U2 were in the starting grid to play as part of the Formula One as far back as 2009, when former racing chief Bernie Ecclestone announced that the group would perform in a few European races. For some reason, the deal (which also included the UK boyband Take That) stalled and the gigs never happened. Maybe now with the new owners in the driver’s seat, things will change.