Brand New Day
Bilbao, ESAuditorio Euskalduna

Music for a smart audience...

According to what they say, it seems that Sting has proposed to overturn the image of a well-to-do musician that he has created around himself since he started his solo career. Although, seeing the quality of his legacy, he's going to have to push himself and focus again on composition, without becoming fixated with the political commitments he champions, in order to achieve the ideal complement to his classic songs, that continue to dazzle those who go to his concerts.

That's how it was, at least, last Tuesday night in the Palacio Euskalduna in Bilbao, where Sting arrived with the aim of presenting the songs from his latest record, 'Brand New Day', but he didn't forget to revisit the best known compositions of The Police ('Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take', 'Message in a Bottle') and those from his first decade as a solo artist ('Englishman in New York', 'Fields of Gold'). In fact, strategically interspersed with the new songs, they were the ones that left the best taste in the mouth of those who turned up to a concert that acquired overtones of a social function.

Said character, between a party and an official reception, isn't surprising in an event generously subsidised, as one could guess from the outskirts of the auditorium, where numerous politicians and footballers mingled. A well-to-do public for an artist who arrived at the Sondika airport in a private jet and installed himself in a suite in a five star hotel.

That was the preamble of a performance that began with the ethnic tones that ooze from 'A Thousand Years', and continued with the appearance, between funky and soul pop, of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. Only when this tune was over, the last opportunity for the photographers to snap Sting, did he address himself for the first time to those present with a succinct ''Hola Bilbao!'' speaking in Spanish for the better understanding of a public he ended up pleasing, more than with words (his spoken interventions were cool and scarce), with his fusion of pop, rock, country, ballads, reggae, funk and jazz elements, and even raps and latin touches that brought him for a moment close to the prize-winning Santana. The audience held back in their seats until, after over an hour of the concert, the rhythm of 'Roxanne' drew more than a hundred people to dance, shout and clap at their idol at the foot of the stage. There they stayed until after the first set of songs was over.

After ninety minutes, the band (made up of two keyboardists, a drummer, a guitar player, a vocalist and a trumpeter that assumed a leading role when playing numerous solos) retired from the stage to return before long, led by a Sting stuffed into a black sleeveless t-shirt that showed the musculature he exhibits at 49 years, ready to tackle four more songs in two sets of encores that gave Gordon Summer (sic) cause to pick up a guitar.

To relax after the pressure of the spotlight, the star dined in one of the best restaurants in the capital and yesterday undertook the inevitable visit to the Guggenheim Museum, where he perhaps had an idea that may inspire the stage decoration for his next tour. This time, the adornments consisted of lights, curtains and mobile elements representing stars, flames and moons.

(c) El Pais by Igor Cubillo/translated by Abigail Dowling