A much awaited paralysis...
''A much-awaited paralysis''; is an expression that I daresay, matches what happened at Sluzewic (pronounce: S-woo-zhe-veetz) Horse Racing Rink on Saturday 24th of September.
Sting's fifth gig in Poland was indeed an event for which many waited impatiently, as talented Mr. Sumner hasn't visited our country since 2001's 'Brand New Day' tour. Paralysis is an effect of the unusual kind of concert: it was free yet ticketed. An invitation was made to all customers of Orange mobile network (who replaced the Polish network Idea) and celebrated the successful rebranding with a grand show. Its elan was admirable, with a massive media campaign, prestigious and beautiful Sluzewic as a location and, above all, the impressive number of 150,000 tickets (during the concert organisers estimated that the audience might have been even more numerous).The size of it was easy to see when coming back home after the concert - many of the important streets of the city were blocked in order to let the river of music-lovers pass. I don't intend to sound snobbish, but I believe that only few of them waited for this concert as strongly and were so thrilled with it as me.
My personal day with Sting started at 7am, when I met my friends from Polish fc ''Nothing like Sting'' (www.nls-sting.com) near the Empik (huge store offering books and music). After six hours of waiting outside and inside the store, at 1 pm ,we eventually could meet our music deity and get our issues of ''Broken Music'' signed (in Polish it is translated as ''Niespokojna muzyka'' - literally ''Anxious music''. As there were a couple of hundred people waiting with their books, we were told to hurry up and not to take up Sting's attention for too long. I was the eleventh or twelfth to face him. I thought many times what would I say if I met him, but when it eventually happended I was so thrilled that I couldn't say more than how great he looked. He answered humbly it was thanks to his mother. (Nonetheless, I retook my yoga classes soon afterwards - I want to look this well in my fifties!)
The exhilarating day continued. At 4 pm I arrived with my friends at Sluzewic Horse-Racing Rink and took a place in the sector that was located directly in front of a huge stage. Such a VIP-seat cost us a lot of patience as well as negligence for discomfort, hunger and thirst (we had to leave our food and beverages outside), but when you're 18, on a beautiful day at the start of autumn, about to experience a concert by a man whom you adore nearly religiously - nothing in the world seems a sacrifice.
At approximately 6 pm, the first support the ''Makowiecki Band'' started the pre-Sting warm-up. (Its leader is one of finalists of Polish Idol). The guys play rock, a bit Brit-style, but they don't seem to have found their groove yet. At about 7:30 pm, Kayah - one of most colorful and creative Polish divas - followed.She's a great artist, but this time her performance was slightly disappointing (or maybe was it my desire to hear Sting so great that anything else would rise up to my expectations?).
Finally, punctually at 9 pm (the gig was transmitted live at 2nd channel of Polsh television) the artists appeared on a stage, greeted by enthusiastic crowd. Sting looked very smart, from his perfect black suit, white shirt and white shawl you could guess he's Giorgio Armani's friend. Dominic Miller seemed a 100% rock musician with his trademark long hair. Everyone was interested in his new co-workers: Lyle Workman on a guitar and Josh Freese on drums, who looked really nice and young, but their art was indeed the one of talented and experienced musicians.
Just like Hitchcock's movies, Sting's concert commenced with an earthquake and the tension just kept growing. First song in the set 'Message in a Bottle' brought forth immediate reaction of the crowd, and soon the whole rink clapped their hands rhymically with the bars of The Police's classic. To the audience's enthusiasm, other rock ballads of the terrific trio followed: 'Demolition Man', 'Spirits In The Material World' and 'Synchronicity II'; all three slightly rearranged, yet not deprived of their primal attitude, full of dark and intensive feelings.
'Mercury Falling's 'Hounds Of Winter', sprinkled with a lot of deep guitar playing and a bit of dog-like howling introduced bluer notes to the concert. In a serene 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', Sting, supported by Dom Miller in singing (!), spread into the crowds a little hope and optimism - values that seem quite hard to find in most of The Police's discography. However, soon blue moods (that dominated the first part of the concert) came back in another early song 'Driven To Tears'. The following 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' turned into a form of dialogue between him and us; I guess Sting was satisfied to hear us shouting ''No rain!'' with noticeable engagement (it was a lovely and warm evening, by the way). Girls were indeed satisfied, seeing his erotic dance with the bass (I think that this part of TV-broadcast should be censored for children :P).
A rearranged performance of 'Invisible Sun' brought in the breeze of anxiety and the surreal. No wonder this incredible track was used at the 'X-files' soundtrack... The attitude changed with the first bars of 'Why Should I Cry For You?' and the whole rink swayed delicately, moved by the notes of this very personal ballad. The feeling of loss was soon replaced by the flair of romance, when we heard 'Fields Of Gold'. I got really carried away, listening to sublime dialogue between the main melodic line and subtle sounds of Dominic's Miller guitar.
Sadness and after-thought came back with 'A Day In The Life' a homage paid to Fab Four, Sting's (as he said himself) favourite group. The fates of John, Paul, George and Ringo seem similar to Sting's - each of them a poor boy from working-class quarter, who amazed the world with their talent; perhaps this is why this song (elected as an alternative British anthem by readers the Q magazine) sounded so ravishingly. Also the three-guitar-and-drums band looked like a reflection of The Beatles.
The dark mood continued with connected 'The Soul Cages' and 'King Of Pain', two massive ballads of despair (that, paradoxally, always make me feel better). Sting, a former teacher, decided to get us singing properly 'Voices Inside My Head', but after a couple attempts he went on smoothly to 'When The World Is Running Down'. I worship its version from 'Bring On The Night' LP, but the art of Lyle Workman's made me not long for the crazy piano of Kenny Kirkland and Branford Marsalis's hiphop impromptu.
Everything that has happened so far was miraculous, but was just a preparation for the gig's climax - 'Roxanne'. In spite of their long-lasting relationship, Sting isnt definately bored with the permissive lady who changed his life nearly three decades ago. I heard numerous performances of this song, but this night's was perfect - more anxious than the original one and more erotic than the one he sang on '..All This Time' and 'Sacred Love' Tour. The atmosphere was arousing, and as Sting repeated feverishly ''I won't share, I won't share, I won't share....'' I found myself orbiting somewhere between stars.
Passionate mood continued with 'Desert Rose' a true masterpiece with Sting singing Cheb Mami's Arabic part. Oriental flair may seem challenging to be created with three guitars and drums, but it was easy as pie for such musicians.
'Next To You' was a final explosion of The Police's punk energy. Although many years have passed since unforgettable performance at Orpheum WBCN , registered at 'Live!' album, Sting is still convincing in songs about frantic passion, and while jumping high up with his guitar :)
'Every Breath You Take' - according to some sources, a most frequently broadcasted song worldwide - traditionally was to be the last one in the set, but our enthusiasm invited the band back for a delightful encore 'Fragile' sang by whole audience. After nearly 80 minutes of perpetual singing and shouting I (normally a mezzosoprano) sounded like Leonard Cohen, but Sting's voice was as flat and soothing as always. It was really calming for me to see for myself he's alright, after having heard so many times about his throat problems. Now I believe that the words he said to bid us a ''Goodbye, God bless you, we'll see you again'', will come true.
Sting, dear! Do come back! ''War-sha-wah'' can't wait to be paralysed again!
(c) Asia Marciniak for Sting.com
Out of the blue, into the orange, with a hint of brown!
Having managed to catch the very last two shows of the Broken Music tour I thought Live8 was going to be my last chance of seeing Sting for a long while. Then, suddenly, 'out of the blue' came the announcement that he was to play a FREE show in Warsaw, Poland. As I have never seen him play in Poland I was like a fish who couldn't resist the bait and so once again I was surfing the Internet for flight prices, best located hotels etc, etc.
I flew over with Easy Jet, which was quite apt as they're known for their orange colour scheme, and as the concert was being laid on free of charge by the Orange phone network it seemed only appropriate that I flew over in an orange plane.
This is the bit in the report that I become a travel guide. If you are ever visiting Warsaw getting to the city centre could not be easier. The 175 bus takes you straight from the airport to the city centre. Takes about 30-40 mins and, if like me you don't buy a ticket, it's also FREE!
I was staying in the same hotel as several other members of the 'lunatic club'. The location of the hotel was perfect for the book signing, being only about 5 minutes walk from the shop in which it was to take place the next day. So within an hour of arrival I had bumped into Panda from Riga and Sue and Eric from NY, who were having a coffee in the bookstore's café.
We decided to take a trip up into the old town of Warsaw for lunch. In the very picturesque main square we sat in the lovely early afternoon sunshine at an outside restaurant sipping glasses of larger into which strawberry juice had been poured? Mmmm, now I've heard of Snakebite, which is cider and blackcurrant, but never larger with strawberry, more Wormbite I think!
Following our meal we set of in search of the venue so that we could check it out for the following day, best way of getting there, best entrance to get in etc, etc. Panda had already marked the venue on her map and it was quite a way away from the city centre so we took the Metro to as close as possible. Eric, obviously being an intrepid explorer, has a handy little compass. So from the Metro we headed west through a residential area. We stopped to ask someone where the racetrack was and you could tell from her rather bemused reaction to the fact that we were trying to get there on foot that there was an obstacle of some kind that we were going to have to negotiate in order for us to reach our destination. Well, the reason for her bemusement soon became clear as we arrived at the edge of a 6-lane highway which was reminicent of the home straight of the Indy 500 at green flag time. On the other side lay the racetrack and so there was only ONE thing to do.
How the F*** were we going to get across this? Is what all of us must have been thinking. But none of us were brave enough to be the one to say ''no way'' and so our dice with death commenced. Luckily there was a grass centre section so a MERE 3 lanes were all that was needed to be crossed in two mad sprints.
We waited for a break in the traffic, and we waited for a break in the traffic, and we waited for a break in the traffic. The Lemmings in their shiny metal boxes were indeed contesting in a suicidal race as they roared past us. Having waited about 10 minutes Eric gave the call ''there's a gap after the silver car'' and so like Michael Johnson running to the toilet whilst suffering from Diarrhoea we ran as fast as we could to the salvation of the centre of the road.
The elation of making it without serious injury was soon quelled with the stark reality that we were in fact stranded in the middle and had the whole thing to do again. The words to Something the Boy Said were going through my mind, 'When we set out on this journey there were no doubts in out minds'. But for sure there were certainly doubts now especially as after another five minutes of waiting we had still not had a gap appear on the other side. I looked around at one point only to see a Polish Police van approaching on the inside lane to us. 'Oh my God' I thought. Were going to end up in a Warsaw cell for the night. I turned back and preyed that the van would pass us by, which thankfully it did.
Once again Eric gave the call and our second game of Russian Roulette with the traffic took place. Once on the safety of the other side we all caught our breath and vowed to never, ever, to do such a thing again. We began to walk a bit further up the road along the perimeter of the race track and soon we were all in fits of laughter as sprayed onto the pavement was a message saying 'I made it!' We had not therefore been the first mentally insecure people to have crossed this highway and survived to tell the tale. If only Sting knew the kind of things we put ourselves through in the pursuit of seeing him play.
We half circumnavigated the racetrack and found an entrance that led us into the arena. The stage was still being prepared and so unfortunately our brave efforts were not to be rewarded with a listen to the Sound Check.
Being a racetrack the air was filled with the pleasantries of horse post eating secretments. We agreed that it would not be a complete visit if we were not to get horse shite on our shoes at some point in time. But throughout all this I kept wondering if it was indeed the blame of the horses for this pungent smell or was it the contents of our underpants, following our 'road kill' crossing, that was the source of the sent surrounding us.
Saturday morning arrived and we set off for the book signing at 9 O'clock. We bumped into Stepanka, from the Czech Republic in the foyer of the hotel. We were not the first to arrive at the BS as about 50 people were already in line. We were told that people were already queuing at the venue. A decision had to be made as to whether to remain at the BS or venture down to the venue to stake a place. Panda and I decided to give the BS a miss and we left Sue and Eric in line.
Upon arriving at the rack track the Sound Check was happening so we got a nice bonus of hearing a bit of that. We wandered around to where we had walked in the previous day but as you can imagine there was a lot more security. We carried on walking and found ourselves actually in the horse stables area itself. There, to our delight, was a huge mound of horse poo. I don't think I've ever been more pleased to get a bit of horse shite on my shoes as at least I could celebrate achieving the acclaim of what we had been talking about the day before.
Panda and I returned to the entrance and began the 3-hour wait for the gates to open. This long wait was somewhat eased by the 10 cans of Heineken I managed to buy from a stall down the road, and get this only 5 Zlotys a can! (that's £1 or $1.75. Try getting a can of larger at a gig in this country for that). Now before you accuse me of being an alcoholic I only had 3 of them myself. Panda had the rest! (only joking sweetie). No, seriously, we shared them out among the people we were getting to know. Funny how many friends you can make when you have drink in your bag! Eric and Sue arrived from the BS happy to have got their intended things signed. I gave them my last two cans of larger and we waited the remaining time.
Gate opening time came and I was getting so frustrated that the security were checking every one rigorously. People were getting in before me and running to the stage. My angst was quantifiable. Eventually I got through and sprinted the 300 yards to the centre section. Again I did my hamstring in, as I did in Berlin on my last stage rush last summer. But it was mission completed when I bagged a barrier spot just to the left of Dom's position. A few minutes latter Panda joined me. I had told her beforehand that I would be running like hell once I got in there and that I would look out for her coming in. She arrived some minutes latter as once again security were being stupid and not letting any bags into the centre section. Everyone had to empty all their important things out of their bags and leave them at the perimeter. Crazy! Eric followed but Sue also had problems getting into the middle section and so was the last of our party to arrive at the stage.
The further 6-hour wait commenced with no opportunity to leave the hallowed barrier position. Therefore no toilet, no food, and only a beaker of water in the whole time to abate my thirst and starvation. There was many a moment during this 6 hours when I said to myself ''you really are TOO old for all this''. But then again I say that every time and come the next time I'm there again!
The first support act was OK. Sometimes sounding a bit Coldplayish. By the time the second act came on stage all I wanted was to see Sting and so my opinion would not be fair to give. Eventually at 8:55 the band took to the stage followed shortly by the main man himself. To rapturous applause the drum beat of 'Message in a Bottle' got the spine tingling and my aching legs, knees, back and stomach were all forgotten as I jumped up and down like a teenager. This is the best drug in the world and makes all the waiting worthwhile. Oh, just a castaway, an island lost at seao we all screamed out in unison with Sting and for the next 100 minutes or so we were in heaven. The set list has already been posted on the site so you all know by now what was played including EBYT which he vowed that he would never play again, then came Live8, then came Warsaw, then came? Well, we will all have to wait and see won't we.
By the end of the show I was almost dying. I was ravenous for food, thirsty beyond belief and my body ached. But what a show. The biggest Sting show I've ever been to and probably ever will. There is only one word for it EMMENCE.
We had been told of a get together at an Irish pub so wearily Panda and I set of in search. What seemed like an eternity later we eventually found it only to find no Sting fans in there. Perhaps the pace of our walking, or should I say shuffling, was too slow to get there in time. After pathetically not being able to finish our drinks because of sheer fatigue we set off back to the Metro and back to the Hotel. Sue and Eric were still awake so we spent some time in their room exchanging our experiences of the day.
The others had early flights out in the morning and so on the Sunday I spent time sightseeing up in the old town again. More walking for my old limbs. I returned to England late in the evening and once again it was well-gone midnight before I got to my bed. But the insane person that I am I was up gain early the next day to go down to London to see Chris at HMV in Oxford Street.
Once again I had a marvellous Sting trip. I love them. They take me far away from the humdrum of normality and the only downside is the coming back to face the normality again. I came back to a pile of work at work and haven't had chance to blink almost since. But one question is in my mind already, when is the next one Sting?
Andy Finch for Sting.com