Sting in Santiago...
Chile's National Stadium Rocks to Sound of Amnesty: Sting sings, then dances with a relative of a reported victim of Pinochet's regime to bring the international rights group's show to a dramatic close.
Most of the crowd of 80,000 had already been at the National Stadium more than nine hours, but there was still plenty of emotion left as Sting closed the Amnesty International concert early Sunday morning on an especially dramatic note.
After singing 'They Dance Alone', a song that he dedicated to the relatives of victims of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 16 years of authoritarian rule in Chile, Sting danced across the huge stage with the female relative of one of the alleged victims of the regime.
Moments before, the fans had roared their approval as Sting stood at the microphone and said in Spanish, "Listen, Mr. Pinochet, don't buy any more weapons. Imagine your mother dancing alone."
As Sting finished his dance, the crowd held up matches and lighters in salute as the historic two-day pop-rock event in the giant stadium came to an end.
Besides Sting, the Saturday line-up included such international pop stars as Sinead O'Connor and Peter Gabriel, while teen sensations New Kids on the Block headlined the Friday concert. Jackson Browne and Ruben Blades performed both nights. Two local bands, Congreso and Inti-Illimani, also drew favourable reactions from the audience.
Both days' events opened with the performers gathering on stage to sing Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up," followed by a minute of silence in memory of the "victims that have died in this stadium."
The stadium was used as a detention camp by security forces after Pinochet overthrew President Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity coalition in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973. About 4,000 supporters of Allende's government were herded into the stadium, where several hundred were tortured and executed.
Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, had hoped to end its ambitious, five-continent "Human Rights Now!" tour in 1988 in Santiago, but was unable to secure the necessary approval, Amnesty officials said.
The weekend shows in Chile, which has made a successful transition to democracy since 1988, were designed by Amnesty International as a positive sign to underscore that "non-violent change" is possible.
The political messages by the artists were interspersed with the music throughout both days, which were marred only by problems outside the stadium Saturday when a few thousand people with tickets could not get into the packed concert because others had either forced their way through gates or entered with counterfeit tickets. The police used tear gas to disperse the angry crowd.
The disorder outside contrasted sharply with the calm and festive atmosphere prevailing within the stadium. Soledad Falabella, an Amnesty volunteer gathering signatures for political prisoners around the world, said the response has been "very positive."
Another volunteer underlined the difference between the two nights. "Today, the people are much more interested and co-operative," the volunteer said Saturday in reference to the Friday night concert when a more youthful, female and very vociferous audience spent the greater part of the evening awaiting the New Kids.
Even the popular Panamanian singer-songwriter Blades got the "warm-up band" treatment Friday. "New Kids! New Kids!" the roughly 65,000 fans on hand chanted before Blades' performance.
"Thank you for your honesty," quipped a good-natured Blades, who was far better received by Saturday's older audience.
But even the New Kids - who caused so much hysteria among the crowd that one journalist here compared the reaction to what might have happened if the Beatles had played Santiago in 1964 - acknowledged the weekend's social consciousness when member Donnie Wahlberg read a declaration in Spanish asking for respect for human rights. The group ended its set by shouting, "Let's have a party for liberty."
The audience was especially festive and appreciative both days, making colourful waves in the stands during Wynton Marsalis' jazz set and cheering mightily Peter Gabriel's song about Steve Biko, the South African dissident who died in a Pretoria prison.
O'Connor, who was also well received, lit a candle on stage in memory of Rodrigo Rojas de Negri, who was burned alive by the Chilean military during a protest demonstration in 1986.
Jackson Browne started off his show Saturday with "For America" and wound it up by asking authorities to free two Chilean journalists - Juan Andres Lagos and Juan Pablo Cardenas - from Chilean jails. Both are accused of writing articles falsely accusing members of the Chilean army with human rights violations. Organisers were largely pleased with the way the concert turned out. Jaime de Aguirre, promoter of the event, described the response as "incredible," adding that "artistically, this is the best thing that has happened for Chile and something that will never repeat itself."
(c) The Los Angeles Times by Pablo Bachelet