After two days of heatwave, the whole festival was anticipating the spell of cooler and wetter weather forecast for Wednesday. In true Paléo spirit, people geared up with wellies and raincoats, never letting anything as insignificant as a storm or a sea of mud getting in the way of the concerts. The clouds had been gradually building up, and it was about quarter past six when the downpour started, a few minutes into Arthur H‘s concert. I had luckily relocated to the press service, where an apéritif celebrating 40 years of collaboration between Belgian culture and the festival was organised. Daniel Rossellat said a few words about the rain, mentioning the unpredictability of the weather- apparently the person in charge of the weather forecast for the festival had got soaked by the sudden downpour, showing just how hard it is to be totally accurate! Over one hundred artists and bands from Belgium have played over the years at Paléo, including Arno this year, and last year’s memorable Stromae. Ties between different French-speaking festivals are important, and the different collaborations were celebrated with a beer specially brewed for the occasion!
The weather did manage to create a bit of chaos on the grounds, as Angus and Julia Stone‘s concert was delayed by nearly 40 minutes for technical reasons. There’s something quite magical to the sight of all the people gradually flocking to the main stage as the brother and sister struck the first chords on their guitars, everyone forgoing whatever shelter they had found to go and enjoy the concert – obviously the biggest fans had been hanging around under the rain to make sure they got the best view of the concert. From heavier guitar pieces to lighter pop-y songs with a catchy tune on the keyboards, the Stones did their thing, although they weren’t super chatty (at least at the beginning of their show!)
The opposite can be said of Passenger, whose concert at Les Arches was delayed because of the delays on the main stage. He came on stage apologising about the delay and thanking everybody for waiting in the rain for his concert, starting in a really nice way an hour of beautiful acoustic songs interspersed with jokes to the audience (about how his life had become hell since Frozen came out and everybody now mistakes his hit song “Let her go” with “Let it go”) and encouraging people to sing along with him (“It doesn’t have to be right, it just has to be loud, and if you don’t know the words, then just invent them as you go along!”). Celebrating “the most colourful audience” he’d ever seen, and praising the way everybody had come prepared with raincoats and umbrellas – in comparison to the UK where it rains all the time and nobody ever does anything about it- he made the wait in the rain and the mud more than worthwhile as he enchanted the crowd with his delicately crafted songs, singing fragments of people’s lives and their stories, their joys and pains. Managing to push the crowd into a frenzy on gleefully vengeful songs like “I hate”, with everyone joining in for the chorus with great gusto, to getting absolute silence as he asked the crowd to not utter a sound as he performed one of his newest songs, “which means a lot to me at the moment”- a beautiful and calm love song, whose strength was amplified by the magic silence of thousands of people in raincoats, hypnotised by a man alone on the stage with his guitar. In my opinion, one of the best concerts of this festival.
The evening continued with Mongolian rock-stars Hanggai, who mix traditional polyphonic singing with their own mix of heavy rock and traditional tunes. The main singer had the utmost class with his aviator sunglasses, long hair and chain hanging on his trousers. Their music was catchy and full of energy, and it was easy to imagine yourself riding a horse (or a big motorbike, a Royal Enfield or the like!) through the Mongolian steppe.
The main attraction of the evening was obviously Sting, who once again enchanted the crowd with his (bearded!) performance. With a perfect mix of newer material and all the old favourites (the concert ended with Roxanne and Every Breath You Take), Sting gave off the feeling that he was truly enjoying himself on stage. With the knack of surrounding himself with some of the best musicians you can find, and giving them a lot of room to impress the crowd with their talent, Sting not only delivered a enjoyable pop concert, but also some very high quality music.