ABU DHABI // Legendary British group The Rolling Stones set the capital on fire on Friday night with a massive show on Yas Island.
The wrinkly rockers kicked off their 14 On Fire tour at the du Arena with a swaggering set of classics.
Taking the stage just before 9pm, the band launched into a roaring take of Start Me Up, which heralded the first of many mass sing-alongs from the fanatic crowd.
“Marhaba Abu Dhabi,” Mick Jagger said at the song’s end. “Are you ready for a good time?”
The hours the band had spent holed up in rehearsals in both Paris and Abu Dhabi paid off. The group were tight as they tore through the follow-ups It’s Only Rock’n’Roll and the jaunty Tumbling Dice.
Dressed in a sparkling red jacket, black shirt and jeans, Jagger was on the move throughout.
The first salvo of songs had him sashaying both sides of the stage while, in Tumbling Dice, he made full use of the T-shape platform by walking down to its end, with fans in hysterics at both sides.
Jagger also told the crowd: “We have been all over Abu Dhabi. We went to Emirates Palace, the Falcon Hospital, Ferrari World just over here.
“Keith and I went to the formula one track, we borrowed a couple of cars to have a race but all we saw was people riding bicycles. It’s a weird track.”
At the end of the disco-inspired Emotional Rescue, Jagger showed his knowledge of the UAE by asking the crowd: “Is anybody here from Sharjah? Anybody from Fujairah? From Ras Al Khaimah? Anybody from Umm Al Quwain? ... have I forgotten anyone?”
In unison, the crowd then shouted “Dubai” and Jagger laughed before the band moved on to play Doom and Gloom. However, the frontman did forget Ajman but the feral fans were not too concerned.
Kamal El Far, a 34-year-old Egyptian, travelled especially from his homeland to watch the band. “It was always The Beatles and The Rolling Stones when I was a teenager,” he said. “I’ve been listening to them all my life.”
The concert was the first time he has got to see one of his favourite bands live. “I used to live in Paris and I tried going to one of their concerts there back in 2006,” he said. “But Keith Richards fell out of a palm tree a few days before the concert, so they had to cancel it. I was devastated. This is really long overdue.”
John Francis, a British resident of Al Ain, was one of the older fans in attendance, having just hit 60.
“I’m a big fan and I’ve been listening to their music for the past 40 years,” he said. “The first time I watched them was in Richmond – they hadn’t hit their record yet and there were only 150 people at that concert.”
Andy Anderson, a 31-year-old Dubai resident from Glasgow, Scotland, saw the concert as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I am a fan of their music and I know a lot of their songs,” he said.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to attend the concert because they’re one of the biggest bands that’s ever been and, because of their age, they might not be touring a lot in the future, so it’s probably one of the last opportunities to see them.”
He attended the concert with 20 of his friends from Scotland and the rest of the UK. “My family are huge Beatles and Rolling Stones fans so, growing up, I’d heard their music and, from that, it had a knock-on effect.”
Omar Abdallah, a 44-year-old Egyptian who has been living in Dubai for the past seven years, attended the concert with three of his friends.
He said he was thrilled when he found out about the band coming as he has been a classic rock fan for 20 years.
Adam Koster, a 33-year-old Swede, said: “These guys are legends and their music is fantastic. The more international concerts we have in the UAE, the better. It’s good fun.”
Igor Novikov, a 32-year-old Dubai resident from Ukraine, came with his wife. “It’s the first time I’ve seen The Rolling Stones and I wanted to be here because they’re so famous,” he said.