Enrique Iglesias performing at Yas Arena for the F1 GP entertainment. Antonie Robertson / The National
Enrique Iglesias performing at Yas Arena for the F1 GP entertainment. Antonie Robertson / The National

Review: Enrique Iglesias charms at Abu Dhabi’s Formula One After Race Concerts

As bookings go, Enrique Iglesias was an on-the-money choice to perform at the Formula One After Race Concerts on Friday.

The Spanish star’s songbook of evergreen international hits proved an ideal fit for the casual Grand Prix crowd. But more than anything, Iglesias won Abu Dhabi over with his charm – and the 39-year-old heartthrob needed it in spades.

With increased security checks going into the venue, there were still lines of punters outside du Arena at the expected 9pm start. When Iglesias finally took to the stage, more than 40 minutes later, there was a whiff of disgruntlement in the air – but it quickly dissipated by the time he launched into the first chorus of the opener, last year’s smash-hot Pitbull collaboration I’m a Freak.

Hands were kept firmly in the air for the next number, a second Pitbull collaboration, I Like How It Feels (not to be confused with set-closing Pitbull collaboration I Like It).

But there was more than crashing EDM beats and celeb tie-ins – soon the Spanish guitars were out, and by the time we heard Bailamos, his fair-weather 1998 international breakthrough, Iglesias was leaning over the barriers to take selfies with ecstatic fans.

Iglesias even invited one lucky audience member onto the stage for a duet. But rather than pick a typical cute kid or glamorous blonde, he chose Mohammed from Iran – an uninhibited super-fan.

“You look like me,” said the singer, clocking his guest’s identical baseball cap – and the huge image of his own face staring back from his 30-year-old guest’s T-shirt.

“So you’re two years older than me,” added Iglesias, simultaneously laughing and lying. “You’ve been listening to my music since you were 15? So, since I was 13.”

The ever-smooth star kept this surreal exchange up for several minutes – and many bromantic hugs – before the pair sang together the Ben E King classic, Stand By Me. Comically bad, this sentimental exchange was enough to melt the most frozen of hearts.

The next stunt Iglesias pulled was even better. Disappearing from the stage after a confetti-soaked climax to 2001’s Escape, he suddenly reappeared in the middle of the crowd, on a small stage behind the central soundbooth. In a global industry where front of house tickets can find their way into the hands of sponsors, corporate partners and casual listeners, this was Iglesias’s way of breaking down this barrier and reaching out to the more devoted fans, with an affecting acoustic singalong of mega-ballad Hero, to a sea of shimmering camera-phones.


Brief scores:

Barcelona 3

Pique 38', Messi 51 (pen), Suarez 82'

Rayo Vallecano 1

De Tomas Gomez 24'

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Most Read
Top Videos