Brand New Day

Rio de Janeiro, BR
Rock In Rio Festivalwith Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, James Taylor, Daniela Mercury
Sting, James Taylor, Daniela Mercury Highlight Mellow Rock In Rio Kickoff...

One could liken the debut evening of Rock in Rio For a Better World in to an old-timer's baseball game on Friday (Jan. 12): mellow and tranquil, yet still full of life. After the Orquestra Sinf?nica Brasileira whipped the 180,000 festivalgoers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil into a classical frenzy around 7 p.m., Rock in Rio welcomed two of its own to the gigantic world stage, which resembles a golf ball with inverted dimples and, according to organizers, whose dimensions will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records at 40 meters high and 88 meters wide.

Rio-born legend and Grammy winner Milton Nascimento, who has 28 albums from which to cull material for his 50-minute set, maintained the festive spirit began by the Orquestra through his spastic samba rhythms and native pop sensibilities. Although the Portuguese-only set was lost on any non-bilingual foreigners in the audience, Nascimento's unmistakable musical grip on the Brazilian people was undeniable.

Midway through Nascimento's set, he was joined by the second act of the evening, Gilberto Gil, for a two- or three-song segue into his own set. Much more accessible than Nascimento, Gil's soulful pipes and tropical rhythms turned covers of the Beatles 'Something' and Bob Marley's 'Is This Love?' into South American-flavored ballads. The lack of any rock acts on the bill on Friday helped keep the easy-going atmosphere throughout the evening, allowing James Taylor the honor of not harboring any guilt for bringing everyone down off any mosh-pit highs during his 75-minute spot - a relaxed tone had already been set.

Taylor, who is absolutely adored in Brazil, ran through a fairly predictable set, which highlighted his prolific career. 'Carolina in my Mind' kicked things off as Taylor strolled out in a blue-button down shirt and khaki slacks and addressed the crowd in Portuguese. A veteran of Rock in Rio (Taylor played the inaugural event in 1985), Taylor's experiences here inspired a tune ('Only a Dream in Rio') which, despite coming after 'Mexico' in the set, brought the crowd to life midway through the show. Taylor's simplistic folk and sometimes disillusioned lyrics fit in nicely with the Brazilian psyche, which is accustomed to sweet, loving music sometimes set to disparaging vocals (see 'Fire and Rain'). Also fond of the ballad, the Brazilian people carry Taylor's music close to their hearts. On 'You've Got a Friend', clearly Taylor's most respected work in these parts, he might as well have just laid down the microphone as his lyrics were sang back to him nearly as loud and the world stage sound system itself. Taylor finished off with 'Not Fade Away', which is basically a Brazilian mambo disguised as a bluesy American rump-shaker.

Bahian princess Daniela Mercury appeared next as the heat - now at 12:30 a.m. - finally began to taper off. Not for long, however. Mercury, clad in Daisy Duke-length hot shorts and a bikini top, quickly got temperatures rising again with her sexy mix of tropical rhythms and Latin bombshell appearance. Known as the Queen of Axe, a mix of Brazilian rhythm, ijexa, samba, and lambada with reggae, rock, and meringue, Mercury became the guarana (a Brazilian soft drink known for its energetic qualities) to Taylor's chamomile tea. Mercury insured that given the late hour, everyone was plenty alert for Sting's 90-minute set, which did not begin until the astonishing hour of 1:54 a.m.

Despite the late hour, Sting never sounded better. Drawing from his prosperous catalog of both Police and solo work, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' began a magical set which would see Sting address the crowd entirely in Portuguese and entirely though music for the rest of us. Extremely mellow by comparison to Mercury, Sting's bluesy 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' and tranquil 'Seven Days' kept the crowd at bay and rested until 'Fields of Gold', which saw the singer's soothing vocals take a back seat to his pin-pointing guitar work.

Appreciative and observant, the Brazilians next transformed themselves from peaceful admirers to whimsically obsessed fans when Sting broke into the first of the three Police tracks, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', which made their way into the set. 'Englishman in New York' followed, which featured an oddly placed yet coolly fitting hip-hop interlude spun around the hook from House of Pain's 'Jump Around', which came and went as quick as a blink of the eye for those who may not have been paying attention at that point (it was well after 2 a.m., folks). 'Desert Rose' and 'Roxanne' soon followed, the former losing some of its world beat edge without the presence of backup singers and the latter very bit as intimately refreshing as in its original recording. 'Bring on the Night'/'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' closed out the main set followed by 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take' as first encores.

But Brazil wanted more, and Sting obliged. The poignant 'Fragile' ended the evening, a timeless testament to Sting's lilting voice and gorgeous guitar prowess - a direct contradiction to the powerful fireworks display that followed, signifying a successful end to day one of Rock in Rio - and, with the time pushing 4 a.m., no doubt an alarm clock for the early risers in the area.

(c) All Star Music/CD Now website by Kevin Raub

Sting, master of dawn in the city of rock...

The big international name of Rock in Rio's first night went up on stage around 2:00. Those sleeping, if sleeping at all, woke up. Those who had gone for a drink came back to see Sting. 'If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)' opened up the show. But Sting didn't please everyone. Before 2:30 many had already left. James Taylor came on stage and, together, they sang 'Fill Her Up', from Madonna's friend latest record.

Things warmed up with the hit 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' that woke up The Police fans. Sting danced (really danced) and reworked 'An Englishman in New York'. It was almost 3:00 and, by the end of 'Roxanne', he said in clear Portuguese that he was very happy to be there and called on stage the ''grande percussionista'' from Rio, Marcos Suzano, who accompanied him on tambourine in Desert Rose.

Then came 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Every Breath You Take and Fragile', that was given a ''larari'' from Aquarela do Brasil. At the end, discreet fireworks. And a thank you very much from Sting. In Portuguese, of course.

(c) O Globo translated by Nuno Leite

Sting closes the first night of Rock in Rio with Swing...

The first night of the third edition of Rock in Rio, Friday, came to a full swing end when British singer Sting an his seven piece band went up on Palco Mundo stage, around 1:30 in the morning. The show was entitled to sax solos, French rap and Police songs with a jazz beat.

The audience was in ecstasy with Sting's performance from the beginning to the end of the 90 minute show, that brought back the eighties nostalgia, snatching applause with impeccable sax, bass and keyboard solos. Not counting on the 49 year old singer's good shape, that left many teenagers and veterans alike drivelling with his Ricky Martin 'waddle'.

It was the best show of the evening. Sting seduced the audience with old hits from his solo career and from the band The Police, like 'Set Them Free', 'Together', 'Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does' and 'Every Breath You Take'. He would start the Police songs on a different beat and, as if he wanted to surprise the audience at all times, he would introduce the hit's original riff, leading the crowd to cheer or sigh (in the case of 'Roxanne').

But 'Every Breath You Take' was played in a more upbeat tempo, without taking away the beauty of the original melody, that became one of the best known and re-recorded Police songs - Rita Lee and the hardcore Swedish band Millencollin interpreted the song, each in his particular style, of course.

Percussionist Marcus Suzano was one the guest appearances in Sting's show and James Taylor lent a hand in the song 'Fill Her Up'.

(c) Reuters by Thiane Loureiro/translated by Nuno Leite