ABU DHABI // Hip-hop star Jay Z got back on track to drive Formula One fans wild on Friday night at the latest pre-race concert at Yas Island.
Wearing a black T-shirt and baseball cap on back to front, and with a large chain around his neck, he patrolled the front of the stage as he enthralled the crowd with hits such as On to the Next One, 99 Problems and Holy Grail, the first single to come from his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail.
In an energetic performance, the masses responded when he encouraged them to “sing it”.
This was even after a power outage caused problems at the start of his set.
The American rapper, who is married to pop diva Beyonce, came on stage at 9.20pm but just before 9.45pm the music stopped and lights went out at du Arena, forcing him backstage.
Minutes later hip-hop producer Timbaland arrived on stage to keep fans entertained. At 10pm, Jay Z, 43, returned to stage to a rapturous reception from fans.
Ranked in numerous lists as one of the greatest MCs of all time, Jay Z has released 12 successful albums since his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt.
And fans were pleased to hear a variety of tracks from his backcatalogue at du Arena.
For Abu Dhabi teacher, Erica Dolland, seeing the American superstar was a taste of home.
“I’m from New York and Jay Z is the king of New York, so to be able to come here in Abu Dhabi to see him in concert is just something I couldn’t turn down,” said the 33 year-old, who was watching him live for the first time.
“He is a creative force and he has taken hip-hop to a whole different level in terms of expression, in terms of ideas, in terms of his words. It’s poetry set to music.”
Risk consultant Ritesh Kumar, 33, from India, was also at his first Jay Z concert. The Abu Dhabi resident said: “If you go to any clubs in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the music is from Jay Z. He’s definitely popular in the UAE.”
In a crowd that spanned nationalities and ages, 13-year-old Abel Birhan was enjoying his first concert experience.
He had travelled to Abu Dhabi from Ethiopia for the grand prix with his father and uncle.
“I was really happy when I heard Jay Z was on,” he said. “He is one of my favourites.”
Scot Darren Guthrie, 44, is in Abu Dhabi for the grand prix with his wife Gerda, 51.
He said: “I bought the F1 tickets without knowing any entertainment was on. I ordered the tickets at the beginning of the year and I only realised about the concerts a couple of weeks ago. It’s brilliant. I think it’s good value.”
Mrs Guthrie was equally pleased. “I love Jay Z. I was delighted when I saw he was on. It’s a brilliant atmosphere. There’s loads of different ages and nationalities. It’s very varied,” she said.
Egyptian Allia El Saftawi was one of the youngest fans present and was easily spotted with her glow stick.
“I like Jay Z because he is a good rapper and I like Beyoncé. I have been excited about tonight,” said the 10-year-old.
For her sister Mariam, 12, it was also a much-anticipated occasion.
“I have been waiting for months. I like every single one of his songs,” she said.
A spokesman for concert organisers Flash said: “The Jay Z after race concert was interrupted briefly by a show power cut.”
The excitement continues on Saturday night with Muse taking to stage at du Arena as part of four nights of after-race concerts, which started on Thursday.
The final night, on Sunday, it is the turn of British electro rockers Depeche Mode.