It was in the early hours of Saturday morning, when one of the most controversial upheavals in F1 history had yet to take place at the Abu Dhabi circuit, when John Lickrish got a call from his talent manager to inform him that the main act had signed for the Yasalam concerts may not succeed.
The Foo Fighters, who signed to close the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix weekend, were now sitting outside a Chicago hospital with a group member rushed off the tarmac for medical treatment. As the F1 weekend drew to a close, Lickrish and his team at Flash Entertainment had 24 hours to do a Hail Mary and find a replacement to take the stage on Sunday night.
âIt was Saturday around 2:30 am and I had just returned from the day’s event when the phone rang and it was my talent manager Jason. And I thought it couldn’t be good, âLickrish recalled in a conversation with Gulf News. “The group was already on their way to Abu Dhabi and we were concerned about their transfer from the private plane they had taken in Chicago and arriving at the main terminal where they would board an Etihad flight.”
It took another 15 minutes before the gravity of the situation finally hit Lickrish. âI was incredulous,â he revealed.
For companies like Flash Entertainment that deal with live events, the pandemic has been two brutal years in which concerts and live performances have come to a complete stop. The UFC and the recently concluded Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix would serve as a return to normal and pave the way for many more such events to find their way back into the calendars.
âIt was probably two hours after that first call when we realized they couldn’t do it with a member still in the hospital. That’s when we started getting the crew and their luggage off the plane in Chicago, âLickrish said.
At the time of this interview, the CEO of Flash revealed that the band member – whose identity has not been disclosed – was still in a Chicago hospital.
âWe started calling Los Angeles right away, contacting agents we knew, artists who were on tour. Obviously Kanye [West] and Drake had just done shows, so they were on the list. The Rolling Stones had just done a show so we gave it a try there. We also knew Coldplay was up for a show so we gave it a try there as well. We were basically looking for anyone from the rock genre who had their setup ready and could get on a plane, âhe said.
The company also contacted contacts in London and managed to convince British rocker Liam Gallagher to agree to board a plane. âAfter getting a lot of ‘no’s’ we started getting a yes from people like Liam Gallagher’s team and fired another group of people to figure out the logistics to bring him here,â revealed Lickrish.
âWe started making offers because the artist directors weren’t even discussing anything with us without having an offer in hand. Some told us they would consider this offer, others said it was impossible. When Liam Gallagher said yes, the logistics of getting his people on a plane, finding seats and getting them to Abu Dhabi turned into another nightmare.
Needless to say, neither Gallagher nor Kanye nor Drake worked, Martin Garrix and DJ Snake finally replaced The Foo Fighters on Sunday night.
âWe know a few of the DJs on the tour because they had requested tickets to come to the concert on Sunday and we started exploring that option. We knew Martin Garrix because we had welcomed him in a Formula 1 several years ago and Sunday morning at 8 am we had him on board. David Guetta wanted to play as well and we did all of the artwork as well, but there was a conflict of interest with his contract and he had to retire at 2:30 am on Sunday morning. That’s when we got in touch with DJ Snake’s manager and all the deals were done around 5pm on Sunday.
It was all four hours before the DJs entered the concert stage.
Flash Entertainment, which has been in the industry for 14 years and has brought in artists such as Rihanna, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, Stormzy, and most recently the UFC’s very first Fight Island Concept on Yas Island. , knows a thing or two about artists who fell in the water at the last minute.
In 2017, Kendrick Lamar canceled Yasalam’s post-race gig and Travis Scott bailed out the F1 gig in 2019. âLet’s not forget that Ariana Grande lost her voice right before her gig, or the time when we had a technical breakdown with the leaking roof and a gig had to be canceled, “Lickrish said.” Over 14 years of live events things can happen. And I understand that fans can be skeptical, but there are times when it really isn’t in our hands. â
Another force of nature that has worked against them has been the pandemic that has crippled the live events industry for the past two years, which Lickrish has described as “devastating” for everyone involved.
âWe have been fortunate to have the events that we have to do and our work with the Tourism Authority on events like the UFC, the Yas Bay Arena and the Etihad Arena. Still, keeping the team mentally healthy and focused was very difficult. We are fortunate to have been able to keep our staff full time all the time and keep them busy, âhe revealed.
With live events now back in the UAE, the company has opened offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with another in Riyadh, with Saudi Arabia also becoming a key player in hosting concerts in the regions.
Despite two difficult years, Lickrish is optimistic about 2022. âWe want to organize as many events as possible at the Etihad Arena and the Etihad Park. You will see a lot of diversity, a lot of international acts happening. We are looking at all kinds of genres, some ideas from festivals and artists from Asia, South America, North Americaâ¦ â
Could that mean a K-Pop gig is likely on the horizon? âWhy not? We work closely with a lot of big companies and agents in South Korea. We brought BTS back for KCon in 2016, when no one knew who they were. Today they are one of the most big to get out of the country.I won’t say who, but we’re in discussion with about four big K-Pop artists right now.
“We ask everyone to come back and the success of Formula 1 will give people a lot of confidence.”
Ask the concert performer for his wishlist and Lickrish laughed. âI never concealed that I hoped to bring AC / DC here one day. Obviously U2 too. I know we’ve been saying U2 since 2010 and it almost happened before it did because they just couldn’t come up with a date to show us despite we meeting their technical requirements. Of course, we would love Beyonce and Rihanna to come back as well. Let’s see what 2022 has in store for us.