Around 7,000 people showed up on Friday night at the du Arena in Abu Dhabi to witness what I would like to call an energetic and emotional show featuring an incredible line-up of artists — from the UAE’s very own band, The Recipe, to Grammy award winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I’m not the kind of person that goes crazy in concerts, but I have to admit, I went a bit off track.
The Recipe kicked off the concert with a bang, warming up the crowd for their follow-up Wiley, the UK’s godfather of grime, who kept people jumping all around with his heavy underground drum and bass tunes alongside his commercial hits Wearing My Rolex and Can You Hear me (Ayayaya) with his partner in crime Skepta.
Maybach Music’s founder Ricky Ross wearing all white with shades on was next on stage. He began his performance at 9pm with a dim of the lights and the first notes of his song with Jay-Z The Devil Is A Lie from his latest album Mastermind. Ross being one of my favourite rappers, I enjoyed every bit of the performance. Even though Drake was not part of the line-up, his vocals were heard through a few of the songs ‘the boss’ performed, from Diced Pineapples, No New Friends and I’m On One. Oh, and that part where Ross asked the crowd to do his grunt “uhhh” 8 times in a row? Epic.
Following Ross’ 45-minute performance, the crowd was slightly soaked-in. Then, 15 minutes later, a familiar voice booms over the speakers...
“Abu Dhabi, how you feeling tonight?” shouted Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, before performing the first of his hits wearing a black leather jacket and his “Northwest King Salmon” coloured Jordans.
I’m pretty sure Macklemore came to Abu Dhabi thinking “I want to party”. The energy that he brought to the stage with Ryan Lewis and the entire band was overwhelming.
Apart from singing, rapping and dancing, Macklemore shared a few stories with the crowd of how he got out of rehab, an imaginary dinner with uncle Snoop Dogg, riding the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and his search for a ‘Thrift Shop’ in the capital, before breaking into the massive YouTube hit.
My favourite part of the entire show, which gave me goosebumps, was when Macklemore spoke about how some people told him not to perform Same Love in the Middle East. He said he refused because he believes the message of the uplifting song should be shared with everyone, regardless of their gender, race or religion. The crowd were all eyes on Macklemore’s catchy verses and they were singing along to Mary Lambert’s powerful vocals in the hook.
The concert was worth every dirham I spent. It was beyond what I expected.
— Saif Al Naji presents Saif & Sound on Radio 1 (Sunday-Thursday, 7-10pm)