Brand New Day

Florence, IT
Cascinewith Niccolo Fabi
He feels at home and it shows...

He feels at home and it shows, Sting in the middle of the Field of the Crows, in the green which so much resembles the hills that he sees from the great villa in the Figline countryside. 'Good afternoon, Florence,' he says, 'it's a pleasure to be here in Tuscany.' It seems the start of a great feeling, but remains only partly realised. Sting prefers playing to talking and the concert glides along serenely, perhaps too much so.

Silent and fascinating, the English singer opened in the park the huge open-air concert season. In front of thirty thousand spectators, of just about every age, he sang for almost hours [literal translation; may be an error in the original] before losing himself in the embrace of his friends (George Clooney in front).

Le Cascine appeared in its best dress, the guise that it puts on for grand celebrations. Frequent connections by public transport, then everyone on foot. A shame that the problems can't be resolved for a special day like the one yesterday.

Sting, the 'Florentine', accompanied by a band that was firing and well-tuned (Manu Katche on drums, Dominic Miller on guitar, Jason Rebello on keyboards, Marc Eldridge on synth, Christopher Botti on trumpet, truly outstanding, Machan Taylor and Darryl Tookes, horns) promoted his latest work Brand New Day, recalled with particular affection the times of the Police, and adulterated his music with jazz and ethnic veins.

The audience of thirty thousand showered him with applause, shouts and kisses: Sting is among the greats of music and it shows. Sting is not only a musician/composer, but also an original interpreter of life.

There were those who were brought up on Police and Nutella and young people who love the 'New Age' Sting. But at the end some may have left with a wry face: Mister Sumner connected mostly with the music, engaging in little dialogue with the audience; abandoned hard rock in favour of much softer arrangements, even of standards like 'Roxanne'.

At sunset when the light bade its farewell, after the well-received show by Niccolo Fabi, Sting took to the stage framed in black, lean and vital. He opened with 'A Thousand Years', the number that launches the latest CD, and then backtracked, a replay of the past with 'If You Love Somebody', a hit from his (prosperous) venture into a solo career. He switched from the guitar to the bass and played first 'After the Rain Has Fallen' and 'We'll Be Together', remembrances of 'Soul Cages' and other successful LPs. Next the central section of the show, dedicated wholly to 'Brand New Day', with 'Tomorrow We'll See'. Then came 'Desert Rose', a rose which springs from the heart of the desert thanks to the exceptional duo of Sting and Cheb Mami, the Algerian singer with the voice modulated as if it were an easily subdued stringed instrument.

It was perhaps the most intense moment of the concert, the most affecting. On to the finale totally dedicated to the Police with the great past hits of 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take'. A finish that sent shivers down the spine with 'Fragile'.

With him, in the stalls, his wife Trudie Styler, the blond Jill-of-all-trades, took care of the VIP area personally. Seated in the green pit stalls in front of the stage, his friends George Clooney and Zucchero. Among the spectators, Mayor Domenici, aldermen scattered through a row, and defence counsel Moreno Torricelli, overcome at being embraced by tens of fans.

Le Cascine, arranged for pedestrians from King's Square, seemed a bit of a dream from the afternoon. Few cars, many people. Problems, on the other hand, all around. From the Victory Bridge to the Lawn Gate, and more than usual in the other direction, chaos at pick-up points from the early afternoon until around 7-8 pm. The pontoon-bridge, the only innovation in the connections, was scuttled for motives never adequately explained (no one took on the responsibility of saying why an initiative publicised even in information folders hadn't happened). The parking, especially at Leopolda and the Islet for cars and in Le Cascine Square for motor scooters, did operate. The shuttle-buses transferred hundreds of spectators from the stops at the entrance. Three thousand passengers were transferred by the shuttle-train from Leopolda to Le Cascine: a small success united with the 'special' Mugello train achieved in collaboration with Mukki.

Thirty thousand people at Le Cascine: it was no joke. 'Political' value, huge success. But you could stake a bet on it: Sting would have drawn just as many fans with a higher-priced ticket. Still, it was great just for once to give so many a chance to savour again the taste of 'supermusic' without having to make sacrifices or beg money from their mother.

Gordon Matthew Sumner, class of '51 from Wallsend, two paces from Newcastle, seemed much more an intimate performer then a true rocker, more compelling in his interior tranquillity than in his difficult music. One might have wished him 'harder', more in the style of old, but that's not how it was. And it could not have been otherwise for him, gentleman farmer, mesmerising singer.

(c) La Nazione by Luigi Caroppo/translated by Diane Villani

The prince of rock - Sting conquers Le Cascine with his concert...

The place is the same as about 20 years ago, when Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel took part in a show in the Park of the Cascine. But of course it is no longer the same thing: the public is different, the place appears changed, the same organisation has become more efficient, with adequate services to host around 30,000 people who have flocked to see one of the icons of modern rock, Sting.

This is the first event of Tuscany's summer concert calendar and there are all the advance signs of a great season. Not only the very young with their usual tennis shoes, wide pants and tops which are either skin-tight or oversize, but also thirty-somethings and forty-somethings who listened to the Police in their youth or fell in love to 'If You Love Somebody'.

An audience also awaits Niccolo Fabi's brief show, which demonstrates at last his possession of a hard-earned compositional maturity and a professional stage presence.

But the attention is all for him, the English 'nobleman', a man of heart, fond of our Tuscan countryside, its tastes, its quality of life.

A Sting in great shape, notwithstanding that he is now almost fifty years old. As in times past, he showcases himself with a fantastic, magnificent spectacle which in part presents his personal take on life: elegance, style, classicism.

Just as Sting is one of the artists who turned rock into a classic genre, as jazz or blues have been for years. And the show starts off in this sombre mood, a mood which spreads out 360 degrees to take in sounds originating from the rest of the world, to pause on jazz tonality, without leaving out his new influences coming from classical music. The entire first part of the concert develops around songs from his latest album, 'Brand New Day', including the splendid performance of 'Desert Rose'. All runs smooth right up to the second part of the show devoted entirely to his back catalogue, actually starting off with standards from his solo work, up to the final apotheosis with 'Bring On The Night', not forgetting other classics such as 'Fragile'.

Only in the encore does he concede a return to the roots, to those Police hits to which he owes his fame, reputation and success, and with which many people practically identify him.

A medley played around 'Roxanne'. The global sounds of the evening's performance disentangled into the funky accentuated rhythms of Manu Katche, the jazz incursions of Chris Botti and Jason Rebello, the eastern ethnicity, but above all the rock in its hard-driving and pop offshoots. An avowed success, but one which actually leaves some mixed feelings about this perfection that lapses into tediousness, an elegant music that perhaps lacks some of that materiality, that physicality which we had come to expect from rock.

Sting seems too detached, he does not join in the celebration which he excites around him. The sounds are always kept under control, a general staidness which is evident also in the more aggressive moments. On the other hand, it is good that he preserves untarnished his essential Englishness.

(c) Il Tirreno by Luca Doni/translated by Diane Villani