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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Top moments from this year’s Abu Dhabi Formula One weekend

The Abu Dhabi Formula One delivered another bumper weekend of music with gigs held at Yas Island, the Abu Dhabi Corniche and glitzy pop-up clubs. The Arts & Life team were there and we round up some of the biggest talking points, ranging from Lionel Richie’s stellar greatest-hits tour and The5’s big beachside performance, to Paris Hilton hitting the DJ decks and the sheer intensity of rapper Travis Scott.

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Pitbull’s mixed messages

Red-blooded Pitbull has built his reputation on sporting a proud carnality in his music, and there was no shortage of suggestion and provocation on display during Thursday evening’s opening night after-race concert. The stench of seediness reeked in equal measure from the risqué video clips plastered across the back of the stage, the explicit intent of tunes such as Hotel Room Service, and the sextet of female dancers surrounding the rapper. But anyone tempted to charge Pitbull with outdated gender attitudes should be assured what a progressive fellow he truly is. “Sophisticated and powerful,” he suddenly blurted out, following the excessive booty-shaking routine of Bon Bon, touting the phrase like a solve-all, get-out-of-jail-free card. “You ladies are beautiful – sophisticated and powerful,” he continued, with the bewilderment of a scientist ­diagnosing a previously unknown species from an alien land. – Rob Garratt

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The Chemical Brothers – original ‘superstar DJs’

The Chemical Brothers announced their arrival on the stage at du Arena for Friday’s after-race concert with 1999 smash Hey Boy Hey Girl, a prophetic anthem best remembered for the refrain “Hey boy, hey girl, superstar DJs – here we go.” If only they knew then what we all know now – 17 years ago the idea of a “superstar DJ” meant something very different. The Chemical Brothers were among the first electronic acts to enjoy rock star fame amid the 1990s dance craze in the United Kingdom. But the recent US-led EDM explosion has transformed the electronic-music industry and the idea of a “superstar” DJ is now something more brash, ubiquitous and insubstantial. Despite the shifting sands, The Chemical Brothers have weathered all storms to maintain their mantle, as they proved onstage with the ecstatic opening hit the first of many highs during an uncompromising 90-minute onslaught of jagged beats and gruelling basslines – louder, harder and just maybe more rewarding than anything else heard on the F1 stages this weekend. – Rob Garratt

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Sean Paul brings the hits to Beats on the Beach

How can you fit 20 years of hits into a 45-minute slot? Well, for one thing you decide to get cheeky and run over your allotted time. Sean Paul, the 42-year-old Jamaican dance hall king delivered an hour-long set (15 minutes more than he was supposed to) at Beats on the Beach on Friday and still some big numbers, including We Be Burning, but his Beyoncé collaboration Baby Boy failed to make the cut. In a sense this is the best kind of “failure”, as the delighted fans danced along to a fun-filled set that featured classics such as Get Busy and Gimme the Light. It was hands down the best performance of the weekend at the Corniche. – Saeed Saeed

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The5 play ‘graduation’ gig at Beats on The Beach

It was a kind of graduation day for The5 on Friday night. After they spent a year honing their craft in the studio and getting choreography lessons, the Arab boy band gave their first major live performance at Beats on the Beach. It was a solid outing. The boys – BMD, Said Karmouz, Adel Echibi, Ahmed Hassan and Kazem Chamas – are definitely appreciative of each other and worked hard to impress their young fan base. Performance-wise, well, they still have work to do. They were alarmingly off at one point during the harmonies of Bel Gharam, and some of the stage ­banter needs working on, for example. But when it came to new single La Bezzaf, with its slamming dance chorus, the audience had a glimpse of a future in which The5 might live up to their billing as the Arab World’s One Direction. – Saeed Saeed

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Yeng Constantino overcomes nerves for stellar set

Filipino pop star Yeng Constantino, who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Friday on the back of a greatest-hits tour celebrating her 10 years in the industry, admitted to feeling the jitters moments before stepping onto the stage. “This kind of show is very different,” she said. “I really had to plan for this show and make the programme different so that it appeals to as many people as I can, and not just Filipinos here. This makes me nervous because I really want to entertain people and get them all involved.” Constantino had nothing to worry about. The crowd was friendly enough as they gave her a warm welcome, and when she began to showcase her show-stopping voice, they were firmly in her corner. In addition to her Filipino hits, including the bubbly Ikaw and the folksy Pag-Ibig, Constantino did a fine job of covering the Aretha Franklin classic (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. – Saeed Saeed

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Paris Hilton brings the glitz to VIP Room

It is easy to snark at the inclusion of walking billboard and occasional DJ Paris Hilton as part of the VIP Room parties at Cipriani on Yas Island. Headlining on Friday night, Paris Hilton’s musical selections were for the most part actually spot on for the occasion. She dusted off a stack of hedonistic party hits, from Chuckie and LMFAO’s Let the Bass Kick in Miami to Icona Pop and Charli XCX’s I Love It and a remix of The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. Say what you will, but it was an overwhelmingly positive playlist. We could probably have done without her few screechy between-track rambles, which were largely incomprehensible. But there was no denying that the VIP Room’s vibe was successfully transplanted down the E11 – regardless of largely glitzy clientele that you would run over broken glass to avoid, the Dubai staple is nothing less than a proper nightclub that shows plenty of lesser UAE contemporaries the way to do it. – Adam Workman

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Can you handle Travis Scott?

Beats on the Beach had what might be its first-ever mosh pit on Friday, courtesy of an explosive set by Travis Scott. The American rapper took no prisoners as he delivered a pile-drive performance full of bravura rapping, backed by his signature gloomy production. For some fans, the intensity proved too much. Pausing the performance to allow an exhausted audience member to be escorted from the front, the 24-year-old ensured she was OK before warning the crowd that he wasn’t finished. “This is a Travis Scott show,” he said. “If you can’t handle that, you better leave because we all came here to party, right?” Despite the bravado, the bond Scott shares with his young fan base was clear. In one touching moment, he invited a member of the crowd onto the stage to rap to one of his tracks. So impressed was Scott with the fan that he initiated a shirt swap and wore that flannel top for the rest of the performance. – Saeed Saeed

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Nancy Ajram spends a happy night at the Beach

It’s hard to believe that Nancy Ajram’s appearance at Beats on the Beach on Saturday was her debut at the annual event. “There is a first for everything,” she told the crowd. The 33-year-old appeared relaxed during her hour-long show, which is a good thing as the main criticism of her live performances has always been her somewhat wooden stage presence. This time, she seemed genuinely pleased to be on stage as she strolled across it delivering plenty of her big tunes, including the bouncy Akhsmak Ah, the dance-inspired Yalla and the bubble-gum pop of Ma Tegi Hena. – Saeed Saeed

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Jay Sean’s ‘mannequin challenge’

For those more familiar with a dance floor than a chicane, Grand Prix weekend is a golden time of year, with rafts of global clubbing brands visiting the capital for a few nights only. Undisputedly the most exclusive is Amber Lounge, which last year welcomed no fewer than 20 F1 drivers after the big race on Sunday night. This year hosted again at Yas Links Abu Dhabi golf club, we popped in on the marginally less exclusive Saturday, when Jay Sean made the first of two appearances. In the middle of his short, sharp club set, the UK R&B heavyweight silenced (much of) the room with an impromptu game of internet trend “ the mannequin challenge”. Unfamiliar with the concept? “For those of you who can’t understand English,” said Sean in English, bizarrely, “when the music starts you are going to dance – and when the music stops you stop.” The result was an array of statuesque limbs, held still for a full 45 seconds (plus a few naughty or confused folk carrying on regardless). – Rob Garratt

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Lionel’s generation game

Lionel Richie appears to be under no delusions about the demographics of his fan base. Rehashing a familiar routine, the soul icon extended an olive branch to the less mature members of his audience with an amusing prelude explaining the emotional scenario behind a suite of songs, each detailing a different stage in the arc of young love – betrayal, jealously and moving on. And in every case, the audience was quaintly reminded how the owner of a frustrated, fluttering broken heart would “rush home and grab your album, your CD, your cassette, your eight track – and call on Lionel Richie”. A pitch-perfect piece of pop pantomime, the audience gamely devoured the cheese from Richie’s trap. – Rob Garratt