x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Come together right now - or, rather, on F1 weekend

Paul McCartney is coming to F1 weekend. We can expect him to be the cornerstone of a great weekend of music.

The singer pounds away at his piano, the timeless notes build to a crescendo, and the enthusiasm of the audience is palpable. "Then you can start to make it better, better, better, better, better, better ..."

The lights come on. And the thousands of people, caught singing along to one of the most beloved songs of all time, simultaneously experience the same uplifting moment. There are few things in the world of entertainment that can compare to watching Sir Paul McCartney perform his classic anthem Hey Jude live.

I've been lucky enough to have experienced that moment three times. The first, among a cigarette-lighter waving crowd at Wembley Arena in 1990; the last, a mobile-phone wielding audience at Hyde Park in 2010.

And now the former Beatle is bringing his peerless back catalogue to Abu Dhabi's Yas Arena for this season's Formula One Grand Prix weekend, as part of a line-up that also includes Britney Spears, The Cult and Incubus.

If you love The Beatles, Christmas has come a few weeks early. If you don't, you will after this. You know what you will get with McCartney. Hits, hits, hits. And then some more hits.

Before Monday's announcement by organisers Flash, rumours had circulated that Radiohead might headline the Yas weekend. While the prospect of having arguably the best rock band of the last two decades was mouthwatering, there's always the real danger that frontman Thom Yorke will turn his nose up at playing hits like Creep, Karma Police or Paranoid Android. Just ask the crowd at Glastonbury this summer.

However, there is little chance of McCartney choosing obscure solo material or recent, less popular songs over timeless classics like I Saw Her Standing There, Can't Buy Me Love or the F1-friendly Drive My Car. Not that his show will lack for post-Beatles gems either: Band On The Run and Live And Let Die by Wings - "the band The Beatles could have been", as television's Alan Partridge hilariously put it - and his solo hit Maybe I'm amazed are as good as anything he composed during his stint with the world's first boy band.

Meanwhile, favourites like Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Helter Skelter and Let It Be - none of which were ever performed live by The Beatles - have become cornerstones of Macca's nostalgia-driven shows over the last two decades.

Also, expect a nod or two to his former band mates John (Give Peace A Chance) and George (Something). Sorry Ringo, Octopus's Garden just doesn't cut it.

Britney Spears is kicking off the weekend's shows, perhaps targeting a younger audience who might be allowed to stay up past their bedtime on Friday night. This marquee event also means that the earplugs handed out with the Grand Prix tickets will come in handy as protection against the screeching of thousands of teenage girls and, as some of the more worrying tweets and Facebook posts have revealed, slightly older boys.

The Saturday night of Abu Dhabi's F1 weekend, meanwhile, is clearly the rockers' slot on Yas: the stroppy Kings Of Leon in 2009, the brilliant Linkin Park last year. This year, UK veterans The Cult (She Sells Sanctuary, yes, you've heard it on YouTube) opens for Incubus, who are touring in support of their latest album If Not Now, When? Most of us will be waiting for 2001s Wish You Were Here.

After Abu Dhabi's inaugural F1 race two years ago, Aerosmith closed the weekend with a particularly storming performance from Steven Tyler. Last year, Prince's headline two-hour show was hailed as one of the capital's best concerts. And now we have a Beatle.

Online reaction to this year's line-up ranged from the ecstatic "can't wait" to the shoulder-shrugging "meh". That's right, after two years, we're already starting to take this for granted.

Flash, you better start working on that Lady Gaga/Foo Fighters/ Rolling Stones line-up for next year.

 

akhaled@thenational.ae