Brand New Day
Paris, FRPalais Omnisports de Bercy
With Khadjia Nin, Cheb Mami

Sting's charisma warms the fridge of Bercy...

Maybe to wipe out the dull memory of his last concert in Bercy Omnisport (April 1996) Sting brought together a real carnival for Monday, 10th of January, along with his two guests, the Burundian Khadja Nin and the Algerian Cheb Mami. Inviting these two guests could have been an ''artistic'' gesture from the English-born ''man of the world''. With this sanction of his philosophy, Sting - one of the humane stars of the '80s - wanted to give homage for the representatives of two tortured countries.

Khadja Nin still lives in our memory as the victim of her own album, 'Sambolera' - from the summer of '96. Today she is striving to rediscover the authenticity of her voice. In a jazz-diva's dress and a purple cloak of an African Queen, this girl professes herself to be a Sting-fan. In any case she has inherited the same manager - Miles Copeland - and the ability to mix up different styles without turning them inside out. African music, swing, bossa. A classy beauty with the courage of singing only in Swahili, but being truly solemn and unearthly. The wavering vocals of Cheb Mami have a different ''charm''. The Prince of Rai enjoys himself with sharp sounds and makes an acrobatic play of this eastern funk. Divided refrains, great bass riffs, sensitive dances of violin and derbouka.

The great fridge of Bercy has a tendency to prefering shrill voices to the humidity of bass. The result is becoming alienated from singers like Sting who uses his voice with an elegant and light score. The playing of the French drummer, Manu Katche is brilliantly trembling, in a surprising way. When he uses black music (reggae, jazz, soul) this way - as he has done for twenty years now - Sting locks himself in his own universe.

The beginning of the concert is rather too wise. But his voice still has something. His veil-voice, lightly nasal - as if a creol would speak in a North-English style - materialises an undeniable charisma. But the songs miss purity. We have to reach back for the more simpler Police-repertoire to recover consciousness. The desire and frustation of 'Roxanne', played the old way with 20,000 people repeating all together ''Yiho yihoho'' projects intensity. And even seems to communicate it to the rest of the show.

The beautiful blond makes the climax of the concert absolutely wild with a lot of help from guitar-player Dominic Miller and pianist Jason Rebello, who's in a latin mood. Cheb Mami comes back radiating to sing 'Desert Rose', the best song from the new album. Energy and desire fight in the song. And in the encores an acoustic guitar gives justice to classic pop songs like 'Message in a Bottle' or 'Fragile'. The last one could also be a lesson.

(c) La Monde by Stephane Davet/translated by David Buzas