Organiser: Travis Scott cancelled Abu Dhabi F1 gig 'for extremely legitimate reasons'

‘I feel empathy for him,’ Flash Entertainment chief John Lickrish tells us of the rapper’s decision, saying the circumstances were ‘totally out of his control’

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 29: Rapper Travis Scott performs his Astroworld - Wish You Were Here concert at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on November 20, 2018. (Photo by Calla Kessler/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Travis Scott pulled out of his anticipated Abu Dhabi F1 gig for "extremely legitimate reasons,” said the concert’s organiser, Flash Entertainment.

The company's chief executive, John Lickrish, spoke to The National to shed light on the star rapper's no show and the frantic efforts to find a suitable replacement within days of the scheduled performance on Friday, November 29.

Flash Entertainment announced Scott’s concert cancellation on November 26 due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’, with fellow Atlanta rappers Future and Gucci Mane to play instead.

It was all green until a week out when we were told that he couldn't come. While again, I can't talk about why I can say that there is no way he could be here

While both artists are stars in their own right, Lickrish acknowledges the disappointment of fans who wanted to see  Scott on that Du Arena stage on Friday night.

Regarding the aforementioned ‘unforeseen circumstances’ in the statement released by the Yas Marina Circuit, Lickrish said he couldn’t get into much detail other than to say it was an understandable decision.

“While we are not contractually able to discuss the reason why, Travis couldn’t do it because something happened that was totally out of his control,” he said. “Now we as a team are disappointed that this can happen so close to the show, but what I can say is that it was for extremely legitimate reasons and I feel empathy for him.”

While Scott has yet to make further comments about his cancelled appearance in the capital, the artist alluded to a possible, very serious, reason via his own Instagram account.

Travis Scott shared a get well soon card addressed to his mother on his Instagram story. Travis Scott / Instagram 

Scott shared a 'get well soon’ card addressed to his mother, Wanda Webster, on an Insta story on Tuesday. “Mamma Wanda, sending you love, light and a speedy recovery,” the card reads. “Hoping that you get well soon. Happy Holidays. Love your Nike and Jordan family.”

Scott, real name Jacques Webster, shared the image alongside the prayer hand emoji. The rapper, 28, has a shoe line collaboration with Nike and Jordan, who sent the card. Scott spoke of his admiration for his mother in a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone: "My mom's disabled. I've never seen her bend her leg – she's been on crutches my whole life," he said.

The race to get new concert replacements

Lickrish said the Sicko Mode rapper was excited at the prospect of returning to perform as part of the Abu Dhabi F1 (his last appearance was at the Beats on the Beach Festival in 2016), with the contract signed as far back as eight months ago.

It was only days before the performance that Scott was forced to pull the pin on the Abu Dhabi gig.

“We actually fought many other promoters from the region who wanted to jump on the back of our announcement. I even spoke to his agent when I was in Los Angeles and we were invited to see his fantastic show in Atlanta.

"It was all green until a week out when we were told that he couldn’t come. While again, I can’t talk about why I can say that there is no way he could be here,” he said.

“These artists are professionals and their live audience is their number one priority and they don’t take these things lightly. I do wish him all the best.”

Lickrish said that as soon as he received the news of Scott’s decision, he and his team raided their industry contact books to find artists big enough to take over that Friday concert slot.

“We didn’t sleep for three days as we made all of these calls to the Los Angeles to see who was available,” he said. “It was difficult as some artists were at home for Thanksgiving; others were on tour or working in the studio.”

The final decision to sign up Future and Gucci Mane as double headliners was a purposeful one. With both artists hailing from Atlanta and responsible for bring hip-hop sub-genre Trap to the top of the charts, Lickrish said both have the ability to pull off a blistering set at the du Arena.

While Future and Gucci Mane will perform separate sets, Lickrish said don’t be surprised if they also team up together on stage for a few tracks. “Together, they are both very strong,” he said.

“Also, they know each other well and they have collaborated together on past songs. While I don’t know if they will do that on stage on Friday, they may do so because they have that chemistry.”

Abu Dhabi F1 will feature much loved local acts

One feature of the after-race concerts that fans will appreciate over the weekend is the addition of local acts in supporting slots. Warming up the stage for the EDM DJ Marshmello is Moh Flow. Residing in Dubai, the Syrian-Palestinian rapper is a stalwart of the UAE hip-hop community and is a seasoned stage performer.

The following night will see rising talent and Somali rapper Freek opening up for Future and Gucci Mane, while the much loved electronic music duo Hollapohonic will have the audience primed for The Killers’ race day concert on Sunday December 1.

With that in mind, Lickrish wants to clear up another misconception regarding the live music industry: It is the headline act, as opposed to the promoter, that ultimately decides who supports them on stage on the night.

“It is up to the artist at the end of the day. They control the stage 30 minutes before the show and they often look for an artist that either gets the crowd excited or complements the mood of the show,” he said.

“That said, we always try to support local artists when we can. We give the main a list of acts that might work for them and since they are touring all the time, it is not until the week of the show that they really start to listen to them and make the decisions.