Sting wraps up the 'Mercury Falling' tour in Croatia...
When I told my family and friends that my girlfriend and I were going on a week's holiday to Croatia the reaction from almost all of them was ''Why?'' Well, it was cheap to get to, the flights to and from were perfect and, oh yes, there was a certain Sting playing a concert at the Roman Arena as well!
Any worries about the holiday were completely wiped away within an hour of arriving in our resort of Rabac. The weather was hot, our hotel looked good and the pool was just ready to be jumped into. It was an idyllic little holiday resort but an hours drive from the concert destination of Pula. I thought about hiring a car and driving to Pula on the Sunday, but you can imagine my delight and surprise after our welcome meeting with our Thomson's rep Michael on the Wednesday morning. Michael was a Croat born and bred and, as I was soon to, to find out he was mad keen on a British rock star... Sting!
He told us of 'a very special excursion' that Thomson's were organising - for just £22, travel and a ticket to see ''one of he world's greatest rock stars, Sting''. Suddenly, any worries I had about driving on the wrong side of the road were gone and I could relax and enjoy the holiday. Michael looked after 4 hotels and he delighted in telling me that he'd got 53 people interested in going to the concert. Not bad considering there were probably only two people who'd knew he was playing. In the days leading up to the concert I was to discover that Sting was a very big artist in Croatia. Everyone was either going to the concert or wanted to go but had to work. There were posters everywhere advertising the concert and I even saw a few street banners from lamp post to lamp post simply stating ''Sting, 13.7.97, Pula Arena''.
I heard Sting (and the Police) songs on the radio wherever we went, including a day trip to Venice, Italy where 'Mad About You' was blasting out of a music store as we passed it and on the return journey three hours later, it was the turn of 'You Still Touch Me'.
Sunday came round quickly. It was a hot day - about 90 degrees - and our bus turned up late to take us to Pula. We had become friendly with a couple from Leicester, Ross and Fiona, and we were travelling as a foursome with them. We got to the Arena at about 6pm but the doors weren't open and the queues quickly started to form in the sunshine. Looking around I was amazed at the amount of people wearing Sting and Police t-shirts. And of course, I was also keeping an eye open for Miss Susan Bett!
At 6.30pm the gates opened and everyone quickly filed in. Security was tight and everyone was searched but when you see dozens of gun carrying policemen, trouble is the last thing on your mind. Inside, the Arena looked very impressive indeed. There were seats at the back for around 4,000 people and these were the first to go as all the early arrivals wanted a seat in the sun. Not me though, I gathered my troops (all 4 of us) and headed to the front off the standing area and took up position. It was really nice to sit on the grass and chat to our new friends about Sting's career and just how good he is (then again tat conversation could go on all night!) We sat and had our lunch of chicken and fruit and generally just soaked up the atmosphere of the rapidly filling Arena. But still no Sue Bett...
At about 8.30pm everyone just suddenly stood up and squeezed into the barriers at the front of the stage. For a moment I thought Sting wa coming on but no, everyone just got up all at once. Standing and being squashed in a bit it was only now that I realised just how many different languages were being spoken, Apart from English, I could definitely make out German, Italian, Spanish and several others I couldn't get to grips with. At 8.45pm a local band took the stage. An unusual looking lot they seemed to be well received by the locals but I was glad when they went off. By 9.20pm the Arena was packed. I was finding things a bit uncomfortable at the front as I tried looking around the Arena. There were people perched everwhere. All the seats were gone and people had taken to sitting very precariously on rocks and huge broken artefacts at the side and there was just a mass of people standing on the grass. As the rep, Michael, was to tell me the following day, if the Arena held 12,000 people then there was 15,00 inside to see Sting. Immediately prior to Sting coming on at 9.30pm exactly, the atmosphere really was amazing. ''We want Sting, We want Sting'' over and over again as all the seated punters started a Mexican wave chanting ''Roxanne-O.'' When was the last time that happened at the Royal Albert Hall?
The crowd literally went berserk when Sting came on. It was like being back at an early Police gig as this was sheer adulation from the crowd. And if I thought I was being squashed beforehand, now I felt like a sardine in a tin. My feet were being stood on and hands and elbows were hitting my head and shoulders. But do you know what? I enjoyed every single second of it. As you can see from the set-list Sting kept the whole concert very uptempo and the crowd didn't let up for a second. Even during the couple of slower numbers everyone swayed from side to side as around 15,000 lighters and matches lit up the night sky.
Sting looked fit and happy on stage (he always does these days) and he clearly must have been amazed at the way the crowd sang along to every word perfectly - I know I was! - and I don't think I've ever enjoyed a Sting concert more as the crowd really made it a night to remember. As I was admiring the light show against the dark skies who do you think I saw at the side of the stage... Sue Bett! I'm sure Sue would agree with every word for this was a truly great concert. One thing I know that Sting doesn't like is the crowd singing along during his final number, 'Fragile'. Well, there was no absolutely no chance of that on this night as everyone sang along, lighters in the air. And you know what? Sting smiled. The roar at the end was deafening. Sting and his band enjoyed the concert but the crowd enjoyed it far more.
The following day in Rabac, Sting was the talk of the town. Dozens of people were wearing their t-shirts and complete strangers were stopping me and asking what I made of the show. But I always fell the real test of how good a show has been is to ask the people who were seeing him for the first time what they thought. So I asked my girlfriend Laura and our new friends Ross and Fiona, and their reaction? ''Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic''.
Set list: If I Ever Lose My Faith In You/If You Love Somebody Set Them Free/Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic/Mad About You/Seven Days/I Hung My Head/I Was Brought To My Senses/Synchronicity II/Roxanne/Fields Of Gold/Bring On The Night-When The World Is Running Down-Consider Me Gone/Demolition Man/Englishman In New York/Every Breath You Take/Lithium Sunset/Fragile.
(c) Stevie Welsh for Sting.com