Brand New Day

Lisbon, PT
Estadio Nacionalwith Nitin Sawhney
Sting's concert on Saturday was as dull as the current music by the ex-Police...

Sting showcased the songs from his latest album, Brand New Day, but the audience only warmed up when he played the old hits.

It wasn't another cup final but those caught in the traffic jam may have thought so. The atmosphere was that of the great stadium shows. Traffic jams on the highway to Cascais, difficult access to the stadium's perimeter and, inside, a crowd filled the pitch and the central stand. There was controlled emotion though. This definitely wasn't a show for teenagers. Not surprising, considering that Sting's career is over twenty years and his faithful audience is past thirty.

Although his music is very successful, Sting is not exactly a charismatic character within the pop universe. Neither can we say that he has a made a worthy contribution to contemporary music. In short, Sting is famous for being Sting. An ordinary guy with a little charm who happens to have written a few songs that worked, and now manages his career the best he can. He's not a musician to arise much passion. In part that's his secret. Growing old with dignity, regularly releasing new albums that may not be too brilliant but are never mediocre either. They just 'exist'.

Those who see themselves in this way naturally enjoyed last Saturday's concert. Those who think that music should be risk, new ways and nerve, naturally left defrauded. But only those misled were expecting that to happen. What happened was a dull show, too dull, even for those prepared to party. The reason for that isn't hard to find. The show was based on the last record by the British musician, 'Brand New Day'. This is Sting's best solo album since 'Nothing Like The Sun', but still just an average one, where the ex-Police tries to introduce bits of Algerian rai music, Brazilian bossa nova and smooth orchestral atmospheres. The quieter songs in the album made the trumpet player Chris Botti and keyboard player Mark Eldridge stand out, but all the adornments could do was underline the flavourless emptiness of the majority of the songs.

In more dynamic songs such as 'Desert Rose' or 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' the results were more satisfactory, with Algerian Cheb Mami (in the first song) and a French rapper (in the second) contributing to cheer the crowd. For most of the time, Sting, on bass, stood in a discreet pose but showed satisfaction in his actions, speaking to the audience in Portuguese at the end of a few songs.

Sometimes, guitarist Dominic Miller was the protagonist. Particularly when he put aside the electric guitar solos and freely accompanied the exotic twists of some songs with an acoustic guitar.

But the majority of the audience in Estádio Nacional was there for the old Police hits and Sting's 'Nothing Like The Sun' solo era. Not surprisingly, the best and most vibrant moments of the night were the long and altered version of Roxanne and songs like 'Englishman in New York', 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. After more than a two hours concert, Sting left the impression that nowadays he is an excellent manager of pop resources. His musicians are flawless - besides those already mentioned, percussionist Mark Eldridge stood out - and all the songs are composed in a precise way. On top of that, Sting seems to do exactly what he wants without worrying too much with the consequences. He has the honesty and the dignity of some pop veterans but sometimes that's not enough.

Before that, the band of the Anglo-Indian Nitin Sawhney performed for 45 minutes as opening act. With four albums released, Nitin Sawhney is alongside Talvin Singh the most treasured artist of the so-called ''Asian underground''. It's no more than a blend of contemporary electronic sounds, Indian music, soul, funk and flamenco. The venue wasn't the best for Nitin Sawhney and his band to present last year's album 'Beyond Skin', but even so the group managed to pull off a few good moments, with the ''tablas'' sounds, the leader's keyboards and Indian voices echoing through the enormous stadium. The audience wasn't too pleased about it, but never showed a negative reaction either. It was like the rest.

(c) Publico by Vítor Belanciano / translated by Nuno Leite

An Englishman in Lisbon...

Portugal is a terrible place for a Sting fan to live. He hardly comes by and the closest he gets to us is usually too far away, even if we could get tickets. Not that many people care, as Sting is not that popular around here, but for the devoted fans it's a real pain to scroll down the tour dates on the internet and find so many shows booked in Spain or France and Londoners being blessed with ten shows in a row. For us, it's either sigh or take a plane, something most people can't afford to do.

Well, not on Saturday, the 3rd of June, when he finally came back after seven years! Sting may not be too popular among us but still, when such giants find the time to pay a visit, there's this general ''once in a lifetime opportunity'' feeling that is enough to pull a huge crowd. 20,000 people attended the show. For the real fans this was a MAJOR event! Buses from all over the country were parked on the stadium's perimeter, many travelled by train (a dreadful experience here), others drove through the night and everyone spent the day planted by the stadium's doors with ridiculous smiles on their faces. We were happy!

Talking to other people there, no one really knew what to expect, but certainly no one expected him to be so much better than seven years ago. Maybe the usual competent show from a rock legend, a solid farewell, something like that. Well, like our famous port wine, Sting only gets better with age. Maybe he wanted to make it up to us or maybe he just felt he could push it a little before taking a few days off, I don't know. The truth is the long forgotten Portuguese were given a performance out of this world!

He played the usual set-list and seemed to be really enjoying himself, adding a few Portuguese words in some songs, constantly changing the tunes and stretching his voice to impossible ranges, without a flaw. Half an hour into the show and the security guy in front of me started getting restless, half an hour later he was almost dancing and by the encores he had turned his back to the audience, who cares! That was pretty much how everyone responded.

Unbelievable, I had never heard him sing like that before! Overstatement? In the end, as I looked around there were watering eyes everywhere, still gazing at the empty stage, and for ten minutes it seemed that nobody was moving out. People just stood there, trying to figure out how he had done that at 48. Really impressive! As Sting ended the show, singing the words ''que fragilidade'' in a perfect Brazilian accent, a friend of mine who, believe it or not, was there for Nitin Sawhney and couldn't care less about Sting, looked at me open-mouthed, shook his head and called it ''a recital''. A great definition. The following day Sting performed two songs, live, at a TV show in front of a few familiar faces from the day before, which was our little cherry on the top of the cake!

(c) Nuno Leite for

Sting of the new millennium in Lisbon...

Cars parked on the highway, walks through the woods of Jamor and an unpleasant cold wind biting through sweaters. The fans of the blond ex-Police beard it all on Saturday night. Sting oblige!!! ''All this to hear the man singing'', said three teenagers on their way to Estadio Nacional! Singing along to 'Roxanne' or dancing to the sound of 'Desert Rose' with ''the man'' right in front of them made the effort worth wile though. So did 20,000 people.

Sting, even in his 48 worked-out years with lots of yoga in between, still pulls a crowd. 'A Thousand Years' opened the concert, an hour and twenty minutes after schedule, followed by 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. On this second trip to Lisbon, the musician brought new arrangements for some of the old tunes. The omnipresent trumpet of Chris Botti is now Sting's trademark in 'Brand New Day', the Sting of the new millennium.

Playing in a simple and minimalist stage setting, Sting unveiled the songs he has crafted for more than 20 years of career.

All This Time was the motto for introducing his present band mates: the inseparable Dominic Miller, guitar, Jason Rebello, piano, Kipper, keyboards, Manu Katche, drums and Chris Botti, trumpet. In short, the core of 'Brand New Day'. Curious was the fact that being the core members of the band all present for the live performance, not once during the whole show there was a feeling of deja-vu or, worse than that, a flawless performance of the recorded versions.

Regarding this issue - this has to be said - there's Sting's finger, who always bet on the energy of the live performances do deliver true pearls like the historic 'Bring on The Night'. As for the lighters, they were only taken out of the pockets when Sting played the first chords of 'Fields of Gold'.

'Brand New Day', the title track of Sting's latest work, set the grounds for the night's first big moment: 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. With 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', he recalled the sound of New Orleans and Louis Armstrong. 'Tomorrow We'll See' was the interlude for the musician to do, with 'Englishman in New York', what he likes best: encourage the audience with a call and response singalong. The inevitable 'Roxanne' was a good example of that.

'Desert Rose' brought the Algerian Cheb Mami, who set the audience on fire. Then came the encores. First with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take'. Then, 'Message in a Bottle' sung along with the audience and in the end 'Fragile'. Sting, visibly pleased with the Lisbon performance, thanked alongside his band, 'grabbed his bag' and left.

(c) Diario de Noticias by Luísa Botinas/translated by Nuno Leite

Genius in the Stadium...

What to say about Sting's concert Saturday night in Estadio Nacional, especially when you're a fan and can't put enough distance from the unconditional appreciation of the character?

To say the least, it is bound to become one of the best of the year.

But let's not jump into complimenting Sting without first mentioning the fabulous five that helped him deliver such outstanding interpretations, particularly the jazzy mood that rocked the stadium: Chris Botti (what a trumpet player!) a musician from the world of jazz who Sting says can play the trumpet in its most poetic style. Jason Rebello, a pianist from the jazz scene who attracted the attention of Wayne Shorter, who insisted in producing his debut album. Manu Katche on drums and percussion and singing the rap in 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong'. Guitarist and long time friend Dominic Miller, playing with Sting since 1990 and having already recorded 'The Soul Cages', and finally, also on guitar, Mark Eldridge, better known as Kipper. In short, an outstanding team that is able to restrain its virtues, something Sting acknowledges with visible respect.

Gordon Sumner, known as Sting, is a man bursting with happiness, simplicity and kindness. Besides talking to the audience in Portuguese, and not only the usual ''obrigado'', Sting chose a rockier image, wearing a vest and loose trousers, but stuck to the jazzy mood that has always accompanied his career. The arrangements, of extreme good taste, sound simple and are interpreted in such a natural way that only stresses their simplicity and beauty. That's what the audience shared, even because he did not forget that, in a stadium, singing along is one of the highlights for those who listen - specially those choruses that declare ''I still love you, I still want you'', ''Take me to the moon while we still have time'' or ''every little thing she does is magic'' - or shouldn't people see themselves in the stories he so well interprets?

'A Thousand Years', the first song on the album, opened up hostilities soon after 22H00 giving credit to the 'Brand New Day' tour, that still have a few continents to go to. Then, the line-up brought together the old songs with the most recent ones, such as the gorgeous 'After the Rain Has Fallen', 'Big Lie Small World', 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', 'Tomorrow We'll See', 'Fill Her Up', 'Brand New Day' and 'Desert Rose' coupled with other hymns like 'If You Need Somebody', the 'Fields of Gold' of our heart, 'Every Little Thing She Does', the venerable 'Englishman in New York' and the sensual, jazzy, 'Roxanne', credit to the keyboards and trumpet of Rebello and, again, Botti.

Another quite celebrated presence was that of Algerian singer Cheb Mami, in 'Desert Rose', who Sting introduced like this: ''E agora, senhoras e senhores, tenho o prazer de vos apresentar o grande cantor algeriano Cheb Mami''. Just like that, all in Portuguese.

On stage, the scenic effects, all very simple, proved that what is simple may not be easy but is surely what works out the best. It seems that Sting is surrounded by a staff who knows that. The show's production turned to warm coloured lights, using strong blue, red and rose, a hanging cloth backdrop behind the musicians, projections and other small elements.

The final touch, the missing drop to fill us completely, was offered at the very end when Sting, holding an acoustic guitar, visibly happy, left everybody singing Fragile at the top of one's voices. Fragile were our hearts.

(c) Correio da Manha by Manuela Silva Reis/translated by Nuno Leite