ABU DHABI // Shakira's hips won't be saying quite as much as usual at her New Year's Eve concert at the Emirates Palace. Organisers say the Grammy-winning singer of Hips Don't Lie, who is known for her pelvic prowess, has been thoroughly briefed on local customs and do not believe there will a repeat of the situation at the Christina Aguilera concert in the capital in October, when some concertgoers were reportedly seen leaving the VIP majlis after provocative images of the star were projected onto giant screens.
John Lickrish, managing director of Flash, the company which organised both concerts, said it helps that Shakira, who is widely recognised as being Colombian, is actually half Lebanese. "Shakira's father is Lebanese so she is very connected to this region," he said. "She's very familiar and has played in Dubai before. She's visited Lebanon and been to Egypt so she is well aware of the culture." Fans of the singer have already snapped up all VIP tickets for the concert at the Emirates Palace hotel. Those willing to mingle with the masses can still buy regular tickets, although organisers expect the Latin American party to sell out and say they do not plan to expand the seating area; it was decided the concert should have an intimate feel.
"It's really close with this one and we can't expand on the capacity for 10,000 people," said Mr Lickrish. Tickets are priced at between Dh295 (US$80) and Dh995. Yesterday, several VIP tickets were on sale on classifieds websites for as much as Dh1,500. Shakira is scheduled to perform a 90-minute set starting at 10.30pm. After she leaves the stage, a 12-minute fireworks display will bring in the new year. Organisers hope she will come back for an encore, with the party continuing until 4am.
Justin Timberlake's show at the same hotel, the first in the capital by such a high-profile artist, was one of the only concerts to sell out so far. Organisers had to add 2,000 seats to accommodate everyone at the Bon Jovi show in May. "Justin was the first show ever to be done in Abu Dhabi; there was a need for entertainment," said Mr Lickrish. "Now it's more common and more artists are coming. Justin was the biggest show at the height of his tour and it was the first major production in Abu Dhabi. When George Michael recently performed at the 35,000-capacity Zayed Sports City on Dec 1, sponsors bought 2,000 unsold tickets and handed them out for free.
"That was a National Day gift," Mr Lickrish said. "But that will never happen again. It was great and we were pleased that we could get as many people access, but it also gave the wrong impression and there was talk that half of the tickets were given out for free." He added that despite rumours Michael bought the tickets himself in desperation to fill seats, the British singer "had no idea how many tickets were being sold. We do not have any reporting to do with the artists". Tickets for Shakira's show can be purchased at Virgin Megastores and www.boxofficeme.com. firstname.lastname@example.org