Sting saves the best for last...
Sting is a feast for the eyes. Almost half of the songs performed are the hits of The Police: ''...every move you make, I'll be watching you...''. The blonde singer in the black shirt and brown cargo pants is grateful for every little gesture of appreciation by the audience, though he knows the pitfalls.
At the second song, 'Set Them Free', a few people in the golden circle - right in front of Sting - started to sing along. It's remarkable because Sting's complex melodies and instrumental improvisations are difficult to follow.
It was a long run until the musical wave of 'Englishman in New York' broke the ice. The run included a rap intermezzo by the band's trumpet player amongst others - not really a success - and the shrilling jazz tunes smacked a little of self-complacency.
Even his most famous hit wasn't an identical copy of what we can hear on the hit parade. On 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' the band improvised ingeniously. All the instruments - guitar, two keyboards, trumpet and drums - sparkled individually.
To the connoisseurs, the true Sting fans, this must have been the high spot, but many of the youngsters seemed more occupied with their cigarettes and their plastic containers of alcohol.
The climax started with 'Roxanne'. The enjoyment of 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take' enlightened it. These songs, which Sting wrote during The Police days, are seen by many as the height of his career. However this concert is proof of Sting's musical growth, a broad vision but a familiar sound.
As opening act Vusi Mahlasela received much appreciation. Especially by his version of the Bright Blue hit 'Weeping'. Sting's encore was something special. First he stood alone on stage with his guitar. One recognised the first notes of 'Fragile'. The screams are smothered in fear that something might get lost. One by one the musicians pick up their instruments as the chorus approaches. Suddenly, Vusi Mahlasela stands next to Sting and he's offered the unique opportunity to give one of Sting's biggest hits his own African identity. This was something to remember.
(c) Die Burger by Francois Smith/translated by Lithium Sunset
Sting in Cape Town...
One of the benefits of being a Sting fan is that it can bring you to the weirdest and most exotic places on this earth. The Cape area in South Africa - famous for it's huge and excellent vineculture - is one of those areas. Since it had been a while since the last concert and some time before the new European dates in the spring of 2001, it seemed a good idea to bridge this period in Bellville - one of the better suburbs (as the name says) of Cape Town.
Getting there seemed easier than it turned out to be. You might think that's what you get when travelling to Africa, but it was the Dutch government causing the troubles. When I arrived at the Amsterdam airport I learned that the airport had been penalised for violating noise rules and exceeding their allowed number of flights. This resulted in flights being cancelled and/or delays of at least 3 to 4 hours. It meant that I'd surely be stranded at Heathrow as I had only 2 hours to swap planes for my connecting flight. I was kindly advised to go home and try the following day. This time, booked on an earlier flight to London so that in a worst case scenario I still might be on time... they were right!
One day later than planned I arrived at the Bellville Townlodge. To my surprise it was located on the Tigermountain overlooking the Tigervalley. From my swimming pool I could look out over the Velodrome in the valley. A three minute walk down the hill was all it took to get to the stadium!
On the first day at 2 pm, the place looked deserted. As I walked into the arena the roadies were still busy building the stage. Time to get a nice steak before the concert started! At 4pm, the first fans were sitting by the doors, and Sting arrived at the Velodrome at 5pm for rehearsal. The security was organised perfectly. Sting's car drove directly from the streets into the stadium, so there was no way of getting close to him. At the entrance to the hall every person, every bag or purse was searched thoroughly. Where in Europe security is rather flexible about small cameras, here everybody with suspicious items was sent back. Having the camera cost me the first row that first night, but the good thing was they had a 'golden circle' built around the stage. Within this 'golden circle' no
one really had a bad view.
The South Africans also still have very good manners. They hold their place in the queue, there's absolutely no pushing or 'stealing' others places. Once you had taken your position you could easily go where ever you want. The people around you would keep the gap open for you, so you could return at any time. Quite a difference to many European places!
On the down side, and what I haven't seen elsewhere, was a local African, who has spent 5 hours at the stadium door, burning in the sun, just to reserve a place for a couple of 'emigrants', who turned up 10 minutes before the doors opened. His reward was nearly one pound. The red wine still flows for certain people...
Rehearsals could be heard outside very well. One could hear Sting making jokes with his crew and saying goodbye to someone with the words ''see you in Turkey ?!''. Nice holiday destination !
Sting's opening act in South Africa was Vusi Mahlasela. A local artist who is very popular in his country. They got a very good response from the audience and it seemed hard to top.
Both nights Sting and band put on an excellent performance. He knew that most of the 6,500 people in the audience were rather unfamiliar with his music. But they knew his hits for sure and The Police songs got a huge response. But songs like 'All This Time', 'Desert Rose', 'Fields of Gold' also went down very well. Though many must have heard the 'Brand New Day' tracks for the first time, nevertheless the crowd was very enthusiastic. They were pleased to see Sting live in person at last after such a long wait. Sting rewarded this by doing his utmost. There was a lot of joy in the band's playing.
For those 'dyed in the wool' fans the set didn't have any surprises. A few songs had some different approaches though. The set had further been reduced by dropping e.g. 'Mad About You' and 'Tomorrow We'll See'. The competition on ''who's holding the longest note'' is still going on between Chris Botti and Sting. Where Sting was superior last spring, I would say Chris has taken the lead now.
The highlight both evenings was surely the end. First 'Message in a Bottle' sang by the audience followed by an unique version of 'Fragile'. At the start of the 2nd verse Vusi Mahlasela (and band) entered the stage for the remaining vocal part. He put his entire soul into the song resulting in a euphoric ambience. A wonderful gesture to end this African adventure.
(c) Luuk Schroijen for Sting.com