Peter Gabriel and Sting open FEQ with a bang

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Photo: Renaud Philippe - FEQ

Sting’s yoga practices apparently gave him the ability to levitate during the concert Thursday night. More Festival coverage on pages 4 and 5.

On a blustery June 7, the 49th edition of the Festival d’Été de Québec (FEQ) opened with two performers who have become pillars of classic rock and roll. Long-time friends Sting and Peter Gabriel took to the Bell Stage before some 75,000 fans on the Plains of Abraham.  

At the beginning of the concert, reading from a French text on a clipboard, Gabriel told the crowd that they had toured many times with Amnesty International, and were now back together again for their Rock, Paper, Scissors tour.

 “When I first realized that I had to be by [Sting’s] side every evening,” said Gabriel, “I thought... Maybe after 11 years, it’s about time I got back to doing yoga. It is really incredible. After three lessons, nobody backstage can tell us apart. They even call us the Tantric Twins.” At this point, Sting, known for practising tantric yoga, shook his head in disagreement. Since leaving their legendary rock bands, the Police and Genesis respectively, both Sting and Gabriel have had successful solo careers for over 30 years now.

Throughout the show, Gabriel and Sting alternated vocals, with a song from one musician’s repertoire leading into a song from the other’s. Gabriel sang Sting’s “Fragile” and Sting sang Gabriel’s “Show The Monkey.” They rearranged certain pieces, such as the Police’s “Drive to Tears,” downplaying the reggae influence and adapting it for a memorable solo by violinist Peter Tickell. 

The crowd went wild to the sound of Sting’s hits “Englishman in New York,” “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” and “Message in a Bottle.” They sang along to “Every Breath You Take,” and “Roxanne,” which transitioned into Bill Withers’ classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The show ended with renditions of “Desert Rose,” as well as Gabriel’s hits “In Your Eyes” and “Sledgehammer.”

 “Thank you, Quebec City, we had a great night, “ said Gabriel. 

Sting added, “Years ago, I had a wonderful tour with Paul Simon, who is someone else I admire greatly. That worked out so well I thought I’d like to do this again… who could I tour with? And then I thought of Peter [Gabriel] because we’ve known each other for so long.” So far, the tour seems to be going well.

 It was a great performance, with a nostalgia-filled second half, although one audience member felt that the duo could have spent more time on their classics and hits than on their new material. Others commented that the value of this show alone was worth the price of the FEQ medallion. Another said: “The cold was not the only thing giving me chills.” Many seemed happy to hear their idols speak in French, despite strong winds that blocked the sound. From time to time the crowd went silent, the better to hear Gabriel. But overall, audience members went home happy after the three-hour show.