By Rosine Alleva and Jose Oliveira, Journalist-Photographers, Rock At Night France, Switzerland.
The BALOISE SESSION and the MONTREUX FESTIVAL are the main Swiss indoor musical events.
BASEL was in the spotlight for this new edition of the BALOISE SESSION FESTIVAL. Since the dawn of the year 1985, since almost 32 years, the festival offers a very eclectic international programming and has become one of the biggest Swiss indoor events, with more than 15400 visitors and displaying for the first time since its existence an overall attendance of 99%. A record!
We have to say that the programming of this 2017 edition was very enticing, with the huge American star ALICIA KEYS, setting residence for two nights, the return of the bluesman with the hoarse voice CHRIS REA, a nod to the Sixties with MANFRED MANN EARTH’s BAND, the “Rockability Irish Queen” IMELDA MAY, the charming Princess of POP, NELLY FURTADO, the Icelandic revelation KALEO, SKA and humor with MADNESS, the legendary kings of Funk, KOOL & THE GANG, blind singing duo AMADOU & MARIAM from Mali with traditonal West African sounds and GILBERTO GIL with his project Cortejo Afro. And a wonderful discovery: ANNIE GOODCHILD, an American set in Basel.
What an achievement for Béatrice STIRNIMANN and her great team seeing all their efforts turn into a big success!
Rock at Night had the pleasure to discover most of these artists on stage.
For the opening night, IMELDA MAY was the first artist to hit the Baloise Session stage. What a performance and surprise! Personally I knew her great covers “Fever”or “Tainted Love” as well as some of her Rockabilly songs…She has such a wonderful voice and soul. What she offered us with her new album “Life Love Flesh Blood” has now turned to a more folk, rock and blues style. Not surprising she is known as “a unique vocal talent” and won the best women artist Meteor Awards in 2009. The Irish-born artist is also a multi-instrumentalist and a songwriter-interpreter. She began her musical career at the age of 16, playing with many local bands and musicians. It was quite an intimate concert as she was sharing some of her personal life stories. One of them was related to the Bataclan terrosist attack where she lost 2 friends from her record company. ??Thomas Ayad from Mercury Records. One of my favorite moments was when she sang “the Girl I used to be”, just accompanied by the guitar player. She worked with many big names, Lou Reed, Jeff Beck, Smokey Robinson and shared the stage with Sinead O’ Connor, David Gilmour, Bono, who called her “the other queen of Ireland” when she sang “desire” in Dublin on U2 tour in 2015. She is such a charismatic woman. I was extremely pleased to have discovered her on stage with her new album. Hope to see her live again soon!
CHRIS REA, has blues in his blood, and always considered himself as a blues musician. With more success in Europe than America, and after years of blues, he devotes himself again on his last album to his pop face with “Road Songs For Lovers”. He produced this last opus himself and it is his first studio album since six years. Famous for his hits “Josephine”, “On The Beach”, “Auberge”, he has been best known in America for the 1978 hit song “Fool (If You Think It’s Over). Although natural left-handed, Chris Rea decided to learn to play guitar right-handed at the age of 22. He overcomed many serious health problems which he began to fight more than 20 years ago. He never considered himself as a rock star and says the illness has been his chance for doing what he always wanted to do with music. It was amazing to see him perform on stage, playing with his typical slide guitar, giving a characteristic sound with the Bottleneck placed on his little finger. With his recognizable warm and husky voice, as soon as he began to sing “Last open Road”, it was like being back in adolescence and his ballads were going to rock us until the end of the concert with the hits “Road to hell”, “On the Beach” and Let’s dance”. Thank you and long live to you and your music!
NELLY FURTADO is an artist from Canada, and is the daughter of Portuguese migrants from the island of São Miguel in the Azores. Her multicultural background, both musically and linguistically speaking (she sings in English and Spanish) is what makes her music very special. Add to this talented woman a wonderful warm and powerful voice…No wonder the Baloise Session audience fell under her spell. Nelly Furtado made 6 albums and sold over 40 million records worldwide, making her one of the most successful Canadian artists. She presented us her last opus “The Ride”and shared beautiful moments like “Try” only accompanied by the guitarist Jay Micheal Smith or “Fotografia” she sang in duet with her backing vocal singer Celia Pall. Nelly Furtado won several awards throughout her career. She received the very first award for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2002 with her first hit single,”I’m like a Bird”from her debut album Whoa, Nelly! Song she didn’t forget to perform with many of her fans singing along. Although a bit disappointing the audience didn’t always react to her melodies…But her biggest fans in front of the stage, some following her since 2001, made it happen! And she left the stage with her irresistible smile.
MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND is one of the first rock bands to insert afro touches into music. The South African keyboardist Manfred Mann and the guitarist Mick Rodgers are the founding members of the band and also the only original ones from the first lineup. Beside producing their own music, some of their famous hits include covers of Bruce Springsteen’s like “For You”, “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night” or “Mighty Quinn” who’s first version was from Bob Dylan. “Davy’s On The Road Again” was Manfred Mann’s only hit from the 80’s. The other musicians from the actual lineup performing on the Baloise Session stage were John Lingwood (Drums), Steve Kinch ( Bass, vocals), Robert Hart (vocals).
You couldn’t miss “the” Manfred Mann, wearing a “crocodile Dundeed” hat and the sound emanating behind the keyboard was instantly recognizable. I really appreciated Robert Hart performance on vocals. Despite being Manfred Mann’s singer since 2011, he is also a song writer and wrote several Number 1 hits, and a number of songs for film soundtracks. Manfred Mann, writer, arranger, and of course, performer showed along his career he always knew how to get the best of the music, whichever style he played. The audience was transported by the exceptional music.The Dylan cover “Mighty Quinn” closed the concert. The Manfred Mann version reached number 11 in the UK charts In 1968.
Back to the 80s and English, offbeat humor with MADNESS.
The English ska band from Camden Town, London, who actually formed in 1976 has still the original line-up. They are back on tour and the music scene with their new album “Can’t Touch Us Now ”
When you see the frontman Graham”Suggs”McPherson hidden behind a pair of long black shades, wearing his long black coat and his famous black bowler hat, the saxophone player Lee Thompson dressed in a checkered suit hit the stage… You definitely know from the start it’s gonna be a hell of a MAD party!! And it was an impressive show! Starting with the big hit “One step beyond”, Suggs they combined new tracks from their new album with classic sing-along songs. One very touching moment from the Camden town “Nutty boys” was their new song “Blackbird ”, accompanied by on-screen visuals. You could slowly discover a famous face…What a beautiful tribute to the wonderful female artist “Amy Winehouse”. “All right, nutty boy?” were the few words she told Suggs a few days before she died in 2011 when she walked past down Dean street in London. Back to the new album and House of Fun, Our house, it must be love, Madness . MADNESS, what a concert, what a great bunch of fellas !!! An interview with MADNESS in a following article.