ABU DHABI // Thousands were treated to a pop extravaganza last evening as the US singer Britney Spears put on a dazzlingly choreographed spectacle.
In the first of three Formula One Grand Prix after-race concerts, Spears opened with the elecro-pop hit Hold it Against Me, the first single from her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale.
She took to stage wearing a reflective, sleeveless outfit and went through several costume changes throughout the show.
After warming up the crowd she shouted, "What's up Abu Dhabi. Check this out. This is how I roll," then launched into Big Fat Bass, a song written and produced by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas for the Femme Fatale album.
At one point she plucked almost a dozen people from the crowd to dance with her on stage.
Yashraj Chhatwani, 18, an Indian high school student, was one of the lucky ones who applied for and received a pair of free tickets.
"I was so happy when I received the email telling me I won the tickets," Yashraj said.
"And when the Aramex delivery man arrived at the door with my tickets I couldn't resist but jump up and down and hug him. This is the best night of my life."
Georgina Cochrane, 24, and her sister Charlotte, 26, described Spears as a "proper icon".
"I have all her CDs," said Charlotte, a social-care researcher visiting from the UK. "The best thing about Britney is that she had her issues in the past but rose past all that to the top again."
TJ Pamayan, 22, a Filipino hotel call-centre worker, arrived at the venue at 5pm, four hours before the concert was to start, to ensure he had a front-row standing spot.
"Although I am at the very front, I wish I was even closer," Mr Pamayan said.
Although the crowd seemed to enjoy the show, many were disappointed when she abruptly ended the concert about 10.30pm and left the stage. Fans missed out on old hits including Baby One More Time and Oops … I Did It Again.
Rona Hinckley, 22, from the US, who is visiting her parents in Dubai, said: "I am a bit disappointed that the concert ended so early but she did play all her latest big hits and the tickets were free, so all in all I am satisfied, I guess.
"I did expect a final blowout song or an extravagant goodbye but it didn't happen. I'm all right with it in the end."
On the other side of the city at the Beats on the Beach concert, Saeed Mohammed was having a life-changing experience.
The lorry driver from north Pakistan arrived at the free beach concert on the Corniche an hour early. He had only come because of the cool weather. The music was a surprise.
By the end of the night, Mr Mohammed's musical interested had expanded from "patan only" love songs from north Pakistan to R&B, hip-hop and dance.
He looked quizzical when the UAE hip-hop group The Recipe first took the microphone to ask, "Abu Dhabi how you doin'?" But he was all smiles when they broke into beat and rapped, "It's about to go crazy like a mental institution."
When they sang "cold blood is running in my veins", Mr Mohammed gave his friends a thumbs up.
"How many days is this music thing?" he asked. "Four? OK! Very much OK."
Mr Mohammed was one of thousands to attend the concert that also featured the Emirati songbird Aryam, the British R'n'B songwriter Jay Sean, the English hip-hop artist Example and the headliner and DJ Fatboy Slim.
Although he could not understand any English lyrics, Mr Mohammed was keen to stress that music was universal. The crowd was proof of this.
A few feet away, a group of teenage girls had already made plans to defy their mothers' curfew in the hopes of watching Jay Sean.
"Yanni, my mum told me 11.00," said Noora Al Asirri, 15, a Saudi Arabian student.
"My mum told me 9.00 but I won't answer if she calls," said her friend Itedal Abu Rayya. "I was at the Corniche for this since yesterday."
Jay Sean was the favourite with the young crowd who came early, while Fatboy Slim diehards arrived later in the night.
Sean, who performed 2012 (It ain't the End), Down and Hit the Lights, said to a screaming crowd, "Thank you, my beautiful people of Abu Dhabi."
Henry Muganda, 30, of Kenya, was waiting for Fatboy Slim to perform the Rockafeller Skank.
"The kind of music he does, it's not just for the beat, there is an inspirational message," said Mr Muganda. "We learn so much from this guy."
It was not all dance and hip-hop.
Aryam appeared in a dazzling yellow dress to sing hits from her new album Love Vitamin, Arabic classics, and poems written by Sheikh Zayed, the founding President.
"Some people may not understand Arabic but I know that they understand the rhythm and the soul of the song in general," she said backstage.
"Really, I feel very happy to be in this festival, first of all as the only Emirati singer, and to be with this audience from all over the world, to represent my country."