Rockers give best of the best
The venue rang with loud, crunchy guitars and passionate wails from the evening's headliners, the California rockers Incubus and the influential British group The Cult.
Earlier in the day, the Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger expressed his astonishment at the Yas Arena.
"It is an amazing building," he said. "I just have to keep looking at it because I've never seen anything like this before."
Einziger said the group still had memories of their first UAE concert, Dubai's Desert Rock Festival in 2007. He described touring the UAE as "surreal" due to the country's rapid growth.
"We are going to Zurich and Luxembourg next and you go to these beautiful cities and you appreciate the old architecture," he said. "When you come here you actually see the city growing and developing with each visit, that is quite different."
Einziger said playing a Formula One concert was an interesting experience due to the varied audience.
"I just don't know who we will be playing to," he said. "I am sure it will be a great mix."
For the Dubai resident Emma Sabberton, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is always a mother-daughter affair.
Each year Ms Sabberton is joined by her mother, Ann Morrison, who flies in from the UK to attend the race and concerts.
"In the UK race you will never get this. It's just about the race and that's it," Ms Sabberton said.
"Here you have the concerts and I think that is what makes the UAE stand out."
Purvik Patel, a Sharjah teacher, has travelled to Yas Island each race day by bus - three hours each way. From New Jersey, Mr Patel has only been in the UAE for two months.
"Events like this make me realise how I don't want to go back home," he said. "You feel tired the next day but events like this, the shows and the race, it's worth the travel."
The Cult frontman Ian Astbury knows all about long journeys.
Speaking backstage before the performance, he said he had to catch a 5am flight to Los Angeles this morning.
Astbury said while the group rarely spent enough time in a country to sample its traditions, the intensity of the band's interaction with fans is a worthy pay off.
"Most of the time the only experience you have of the country is the stage, that is why it is a very special space," he said.
At the interview's end, he asked how to pronounce the Arabic word for thank you. "It is shukran, right?" he said.
While the crowds spanned ages, nationalities and cultures, both bands had little trouble in engaging the fans with greatest hits sets.
The Cult put on a blistering performance including the set opener Lil' Devil, the swaggering Sweet Soul Sister and the driving Rain.
By the time the memorable riffs to She Sells Sanctuary rang out, sections of the crowd danced along with fists held high.
In the middle of its world tour, Incubus wasted no time in keeping up the energy with Anna Molly, Love Hurts and the folky singalong Drive.
But the last word goes to Astbury.
"How many of you have been to a rock show? Some of you guys look a little bit uptight," he joked. "It's okay, relax and just let it go . shukran."
Published: November 13, 2011 04:00 AM