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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

What can we expect from Calvin Harris at his Abu Dhabi F1 show?

Calvin Harris’s show in Singapore underwhelms. We report ahead of the DJ’s Abu Dhabi concert

Calvin Harris performs during the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix
Calvin Harris performs during the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix

You can’t fault the promoters of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after-race concerts in their quest to bring the biggest names to the capital in November.

When it comes to the dance music, there is no one bigger than Calvin Harris.

The Scottish DJ and producer has been named by Forbes magazine as the highest-earning DJ for five years running, having banked a staggering US$250 million (Dh918m) from a combination of production work, festival performances and relatively intimate sets in Ibiza and Las Vegas at exclusive clubs that almost require a mortgage to afford tickets.

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Read more: Predicting who will fill the final concert slots at Abu Dhabi GP 2017

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Such dizzying numbers indicate that the 33-year-old geek-turned-Calvin Klein model surely has a performance worth seeing.

Judging by his set at the closing after-race concert at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, you need to be somewhat generous with such a description.

It seems that with each passing success, Harris recedes even further on stage. Where once he donned pieces of fruit on his head while singing (yes, he does hold a decent croon), he has become ever more nondescript with each big-selling milestone.

In Singapore, in front of more than 50,000 people, you would be forgiven if you thought he wasn’t there.

Harris stood silhouetted behind an elevated stage, resembling a half-open book, throughout his 80-minute set.

Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as such. French house duo Daft Punk take their anonymity seriously and perform with helmets, but at least this is in line with their futuristic aesthetics.

As for Harris, it felt cold and remote. It was almost a subtle acknowledgement that his blend of commercial dance lacks any discernible identity – surely not the message he was going for.

Fortunately, the show comes with formidable visuals.

Backed by a pair of large cinema-sized screens, in addition to Harris’s stage, which also doubles as a visual backdrop, the hallucinatory images are almost three-dimensional and expertly synchronised with the music.

Cascading synths are paired with pelting rain; other beats summon a variety of abstract images resembling a mental asylum, robotic spiders and a bank vault.

With suspended columns of neon-lit hoops, half a dozen flame-throwers and smoke guns, there was enough going on to keep the crowd bopping and Snapchatting away.

Hard-core Calvin Harris fans may be disappointed by some of the material performed.

Then again, with F1 crowds the world over being an eclectic bunch, ranging from petrolheads and partygoers to families, Harris correctly deduced this wasn’t the time to drop deep cuts from his catalogue or any material from his superb new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1.

Instead, he played it down the middle with his hits augmented with a few hard-dance bangers to keep the faithful somewhat happy.

You would be forgiven if at times you thought you were listening to a mix from a local commercial pop station, but that cynicism makes way for the realisation that all these innocuous tracks are by Harris.

You can’t help but be astonished with how many hits Harris has accumulated over the years, which range from the iridescent pop of This is What You Came For and Outside to clubbier affairs such C.U.B.A. and Overdrive.

They were all expertly strung together through a series of rising build-ups and gut-churning beat drops by a conductor who knew where his roller coaster was heading.

By the end of it all, the crowd was suitably spent, with faces full of grins. You can’t blame them: the songs were essentially the soundtrack to parties and celebrations for the past five years.

Expect the same endorphins being released when Harris kicks off the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after-race concerts. His show will not be much of a performance in the traditional sense. Instead, it will be a confirmation that he represents the sound of today – for better or worse.

Calvin Harris performs on November 23 at the du Arena, Yas Island, as part of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after-race concerts. Access to the shows is only available for those purchasing tickets for the corresponding race day.

For race tickets and more details, visit go to ticketsyasmarinacircuit.com

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Read more:

Pink and Calvin Harris first acts announced for 2017 Abu Dhabi F1

Exclusive: Pop star Carly Rae Jepsen’s joy at UAE concert debut

Album review: Calvin Harris’s sun-kissed new album is standout

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