From Beyonce to Sting – 2023 will go down as a stellar year for the UAE concert scene

A growing number of venues allowed more diverse concerts and festivals to take place throughout the year

Beyonce made global headlines with her performance at Dubai's Atlantis The Royal. Getty Images
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This will go down as the year the UAE concert industry got its groove back.

After last year's tentative steps back to normality after the disruption caused by the pandemic, the past 12 months provided a consistent and, at times, thrilling mix of concerts and festivals spanning various genres.

A reason for the diversity is the ready supply of excellent venues, from arenas to medium and small-sized halls, hosting an eclectic array of artists.

With the year ending with a flurry of New Year’s Eve concerts, featuring artists such as British singer Sting and Egypt’s Tamer Hosny, let’s look back at the year that was – on the concert stage.


One thing is for sure, 2023 Bey-gan with a bang.

On January 21, pop-star Beyonce made global headlines with a private concert as part of the opening of Atlantis The Royal.

The city's newest luxury resort pulled out all the stops for its grand-reveal weekend, inviting stars from around the world, including supermodel Kendall Jenner, actors Rebel Wilson and Letitia Wright and singer Liam Payne.

In her first public show in four years, Beyonce drew on her extensive back catalogue and sang hits including Crazy in Love and Naughty Girl.

In Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, K-pop titans Blackpink cemented their status as genre leaders with a packed performance at Etihad Park.

Las Vegas rockers Imagine Dragons brought their anthems to Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena, while Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer made his UAE debut with two sold-out concerts in Dubai’s Coca Cola Arena.

Veteran Welsh crooner Tom Jones also reminded us he still has it, with a lavish gala concert at Dubai's Burj Al Arab hotel.


Diversity was the flavour of the month in February.

Fresh from his stint as the celebrity face of Yas Island, American comic Kevin Hart brought his Reality Check Tour to Abu Dhabi's Etihad Arena.

Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi returned to his venue of choice in the UAE with another pair of sold-out concerts at Dubai Opera.

And in a win for the UAE's rock community, Hard Rock Cafe Dubai hosted the first of several concerts this year with a crushing set by Australian prog-metal band Karnivool.


Hip-hop, classical music and dance music festivals were on the agenda in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi Festival opened with a concert by Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez at Emirates Palace.

The festival continued throughout the month with shows by jazz singer Gregory Porter and Oscar-winning Chinese American composer Tan Dun.

Then on Yas Island, the inaugural two-day festival Ultra Abu Dhabi featured headliners Calvin Harris, Armin Van Buuren and Skrillex.

Another debut festival, Wireless Festival Middle East, ran in the same location the following week with a typically explosive show by rapper Travis Scott.

Sharjah joined the action with an elegant set by British singer Seal at the emirate’s majestic Al Majaz Amphitheatre; while Demi Lovato introduced fans to a new brawny rock sound at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.


With concerts muted in April out of respect for Ramadan, May belonged to the Backstreet Boys who sold out their Abu Dhabi concert at Etihad Arena in six hours.

Fans were rewarded with a vintage set celebrating the 30th anniversary of the boy band, including I Wanna Be With You and Larger Than Life.


It was a case of unfinished business when Guns N' Roses returned to Abu Dhabi.

Their previous show, part of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concert series, was marred by singer Axel Rose's ill health.

This time around he was in blistering form as the band tore through an epic three-hour set of 32 songs, including a rare airing of My Michelle.


Where the lack of suitable indoor venues formerly rendered the summer months mute for the UAE concert scene, the arrival of venues such as Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena and The Agenda changed the game.

This was exemplified with the former hosting a trio of the Arab world’s most revered singers – Iraq’s Kadim Al Sahir, the UAE’s Hussain Al Jassmi and Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed Abdo – for back-to-back concerts, proving the concert calendar is no longer dependent on the weather.

Egyptian rapper Wegz also lived up to his regional “voice of a generation” mantle with a sold-out show at The Agenda, which served as the launch pad for a successful world tour.


It was not exactly Ibiza, but Sundance DXB did its best with what it described as "the largest indoor EDM fest in the UAE."

Headlining the event at Coca-Cola Arena were DJs Don Diablo and Yellow Claw alongside Dubvision and Pink Panda.


The UAE’s Brazilian community was treated to a weekend of concerts featuring some of the country’s most illustrious names.

At Dubai Opera, Gilberto Gil showcased the euphoric melodies and rhythms of the Tropicalia genre.

While in Abu Dhabi’s NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre, singer Bebel Gilberto played an intimate set of songs inspired by bossa nova pioneer and father Joao Gilberto.


By autumn, big concerts were coming thick and fast, with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena hosting the lion’s share.

There was singer-songwriter Charlie Puth's first UAE show, followed by crowd favourites Robbie Williams and Westlife.

Meanwhile Craig David rolled back the years with an intimate gig at Dubai's Barasti Beach.


As one of the busiest months for the live events industry, November didn’t disappoint with a bevy of concerts and festivals.

None was bigger than the Abu Dhabi F1 after-race concert series at Etihad Park, featuring a multi-generational line-up of talents.

Foo Fighters were in scintillating form with a near perfect setlist of hits. Shania Twain, in her maiden regional concert, was in fine voice despite looking slightly unsure on stage.

This was not the case with fellow Canadian Bryan Adams, who was brilliant at Dubai's Coca Cola Arena.

Funk legend Nile Rodgers and band Chic showed the crowds at Bla Bla Dubai their impact on modern pop music, while the life of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was celebrated in Abu Dhabi with an Emirates Palace concert by the UK's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


50 Cent at the World Tennis League tournament in Abu Dhabi, why not? The concert finally delivered a concert worthy of his two-decade career.

Despite the rapper and burgeoning television mogul’s penchant for making hits, his live performances – often lacking flair and cohesive flow – rarely lived up to his stature.

The Abu Dhabi show at Etihad Arena was the real deal. It was an expensive production with a full live band, a dance crew and more costume changes than a Rihanna gig.

Mother of The Nation festival on the Abu Dhabi Corniche also reminded us of its pedigree with a formidable concert line-up featuring UAE favourites Black Eyed Peas and Egyptian rockers Cairokee.

Milan's Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala also came to Dubai Opera with a repertoire of celebratory arias from operas Rigoletto, La Boheme and La Traviata.

With more a dozen artists coming to the UAE for New Year’s Eve concerts, including the aforementioned Sting and Lebanese pop-star Najwa Karam, 2023 will go down as a bumper year for the UAE concert scene and should hopefully set a new standard for what’s to come.

Updated: December 29, 2023, 6:02 PM