JAY Z BLOWS YAS ISLAND (AND ITS GENERATORS) AWAY

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With recent performers including Prince, Kanye West, Eminem and Paul McCartney, Abu Dhabi pulls out all the stops with its F1 weekend concerts, and this year is one of the strongest line-ups yet.

Jay Z kicked things off last night in front of the biggest crowd we’ve seen yet at Ferrari World (its concert area is now re-branded the ‘du Arena’), all with their diamonds up.

Things ground to a halt early on, though, when a generator blew during current hit Tom Ford which forced the band offstage for ten minutes and the audience cooling their boots till super producer Timbaland, who is a permanent fixture on the tour’s Global Express, deconstructed Cry Me A River for a while. Then the Jigga Man reappeared, not in the least bit phased by the power outage, and launched straight into Big Pimpin’.

I saw the Magna Carter tour just a couple of weeks ago in Paris and last night’s set list was rather different, with more emphasis on classic hits like On To The Next One, Encore and Hard Knock Life, less on the new album. He also slipped in the Punjabi-influenced Beware Of The Boys, which still gets a lot of air-play in this part of the world. The new stuff got a great reception though; seemingly everyone in the UAE knows the words to Holy Grail and F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt.

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Given this is such a conservative country, I did wonder how all the swearing, sex and drug references would go down. It’s interesting. Most (if not all) of the stuff Jay Z raps about would land you the death penalty here, but I guess if you’re rich and famous enough it’s fine. Tee-ing up the expletive-laded dope narrative 99 Problems he instructed the crowd: “Tell the kids to put their hands over their ears, it’s grown-up time.”

Hova has a remarkable connection with his audience, much more gracious and down-to-earth than frequent collaborator Kanye, for example. “I think it’s only right that I invite you back to my home,” he said before launching into Empire State Of Mind. We’d been given wristbands at the entrance which suddenly flickered blue, and the crowd threw thousands of them into the air like LED shooting stars. That was the show closer. See here:

Tonight, Muse will perform followed by Depeche Mode on Sunday.

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