x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Michael says farewell in style

Fans from the UK and Canada come to see the pop stars perform a stadium show likely to put Abu Dhabi on the concert map.

George Michael thrills the crowd at Zayed Sports City.
George Michael thrills the crowd at Zayed Sports City.

The two-time Grammy Award winning star George Michael entertained thousands of fans at the biggest concert the country has ever seen. Last night's show marked the singer's swansong, with an estimated 30,000 fans in attendance at Zayed Sports City's football stadium. Earlier, the hit singer Alicia Keys took to the stage to open the show. Five screens projected video of the 45-year-old Michael performing hits from a 25-year career that has seen him sell more than 100 million records.

Sarah Harman paid £600 (Dh3,300) to fly from London to see her idol George Michael perform his final concert. The trip was "worth every penny", she said. "I've loved him for as long as I can remember, ever since he was in Wham!. This concert is something I'll remember forever and is something I just couldn't miss." Fans even came from as far away as Canada to see the landmark event, though most, like Jane Board, did not have far to travel.

Originally from Wales, she has lived in the capital for almost two years. "This is so exciting for those of us who live in Abu Dhabi," said Ms Board. "It's great that we don't have to go to Dubai for these kind of events and it really means that people will start talking about Abu Dhabi and not just Dubai." Four thousand audience members attended the concert for free after Aldar, the housing developer, gave away tickets at Zayed Sports City yesterday afternoon. "I'm very happy with these free tickets - I love Alicia Keys's voice," said Said Ahmed, a 20-year-old Emirati.

Keys, a Grammy Award-winner and hit maker in her own right, has sold more than 30 million records and sings on the theme tune to the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. She was visiting the UAE for the second time after performing in Dubai in 2004. Before going on stage, she said fans who were at that show would see a big difference in her performance. "That was three or four years ago and I'm a different person now," she said. "I'm more of a woman as opposed to a girl. I'm way more in control of my life and myself.

"Musically, there are a variety of different styles I am performing here. I won't just be sat behind a piano. It'll feel totally different." Keys, 27, spoke of her excitement about playing alongside someone she has loved for years. "I have listened to George since I was a child," she said. "I wouldn't say that he has inspired my music but I'm a big fan. I love his hits like Freedom and Faith." Keys, who has spent time in Egypt, was also happy to be back in the region. "I'm very inspired by the music here," she said. "I love the traditional sound and the singing." On her first visit to Abu Dhabi, Keys was also excited about exploring today and visiting with some friends who also happened to be in the capital. "Abu Dhabi's an up and coming city so it makes performing here really exciting," she said. "Things are totally outrageous, huge and beautiful. "When I told people I was coming to Abu Dhabi, I had some silly reactions. One person even told me 'don't drink the water' but in general, everyone I know has heard of it and many of my friends do business here or in Dubai." mswan@thenational.ae