Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guns n' Roses & FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi 2010

Dubai has long been known as the “Las Vegas of the Middle East” – a city of commerce, culture and a city that never sleeps, where you can find whatever you want whenever you want. However, Dubai’s claim as the entertainment capital of the region is now facing some fierce competition for that tribute from their neighbors next door. Country-capital city Abu Dhabi’s star has been rapidly rising over the last decade, especially with the addition of artificial island projects such as the Yas Island Formula One Grand Prix and the Saadiyat Island project, soon-to-be home to the world’s largest Guggenheim and Love Museums. With all these new venues comes the ability to host bigger and better events and I was lucky enough to catch two in the span of three days in December – the Guns n’ Roses concert at Yas Arena on December 16th and the FIFA world club cup final two days later.

I flew in from Qatar immediately after work for the GnR show, met at the airport by my brother Dusty and wife Gulya. Although I flew in with ample time to make the show, the fiasco that was the Yas Island parking organization did its best to try and make us late. After finally finding a spot though, we managed to get into the venue just before the opening track. Guns n’ Roses were a band that I had desperately wanted to see as a teenager but never had the chance due mainly to my upbringing in the Middle East. So it was somewhat ironic and surreal even that here I was finally seeing the band live in Abu Dhabi of all places. Although Axl Rose is the only remaining member of the band, this was not a show I was going to miss.

The thing about Guns n Roses is that you really never know what you’re going to get with them live. Sometimes they’re on, sometimes they’re off, sometimes they don’t even show up at all as Axl is notorious for showing up late to gigs, storming off stage, or not even showing up at all sometimes. Fortunately, Axl n’ co. came out with all guns blazing and tore through an awesome 3-hour 25-song show that left the crowd mesmerized. Despite all the years of rock n’ roll excess, Axl sounds better than ever and while many may dismiss the rest of the band as simply “Axl n’ Friends” on performances like this - I consider it more, “Guns n’ Roses 2.0”. I may be one of the few who quite enjoyed Chinese Democracy, so I was quite pleased with the way the new tracks blended in with the classic GnR tunes.

The FIFA world club championship final turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. Prior to 2010, the world club cup final had 100% always been played between the champions of Europe and their South American counterparts. This might have had something to do with the fact that the European and South American champions were the only two teams that actually played in the tournament up until the turn of the millennium. Nevertheless, despite all other continental champions taking part for the last decade, the European and South American champions always duly prevailed to the final. This year Italy’s F.C. Internazionale Milano were due to meet Brazil’s Sport Club Internacional, making the 2010 club world cup final an Inter v Inter affair. However, DR Congo’s TP Mazembe hadn’t read the script and in a David vs. Goliath like feat defeated the Brazilian Internacional in the semi-finals, making this the first ever Europe vs. Africa final affair.

While that may have given the historic final a special air of romanticism about it, the game itself was effectively over within the first quarter of an hour. That’s how long it took Inter Milan to storm off to a 2-0 lead with goals by Pandev and Eto’o. Mazembe were never going to recover from that and Inter Milan easily won 3-0 in a vulgar display of power. The 3rd placed game, played immediately before the final was a similarly one-sided affair with Internacional beating South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 4-2 with D’Allessandro scoring twice. The great thing about football though, and especially about tournaments like this, is that it truly is the world’s game and it may not always the players on the pitch that entertain you the most, it can sometimes be provided by the supporters in the stand and that was definitely the case here. Inter Milan brought their ultras who brought their banners and even flares. The Congolese fans, despite watching their team thoroughly beaten provided plenty of color, displaying traditional Congolese dance and dress. Ironically, the biggest and loudest bunch was the Brazilian contingent who sportingly stayed after the 3rd place match to watch the final, despite their team not even playing in it. All this ensured that Abu Dhabi was transformed into a “paradise city”… well, for that weekend at least.

Set list:
Chinese Democracy, Welcome to the Jungle, It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Sorry, Richard Fortus Guitar Solo, Live and Let Die, This I Love, Better, Rocket Queen, Dizzy Reed Piano Solo, Street of Dreams, You Could be Mine, Dj Ashba Guitar Solo, Sweet Child O’Mine, Another Brick in the Wall/Axl Piano Solo, November Rain, Bumblefoot Guitar Solo, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Whole Lotta Rosie, Night Train. Encore: Don’t Cry, Patience, Madagascar, Paradise City