Highlights and interviews from the BALOISE SESSION indoor Festival

Dave Stewart & Kaya Stewart

By Rosine Alleva and Jose Oliveira – Rock At Night EU Editors

Among the many indoor festivals in Europe, the Baloise Session stands out for its refinement and the constant search for musical eclecticism, which, over the years, has become their trademark! No exception to this rule, this 2023 edition turned out to be a magnificent vintage of its kind. Ten concerts were enough to immerse the Basel audience in the most diverse styles. From Hip Hop to Jazz, including Pop, Folk Rock, electronic music and Reggae, the Festival line-up did enhance renowned artists (Norah Jones, Die Fantastischen Vier, Worakls Orchestra, Asaf Avidan , Passenger, Freya Ridings, UB 40, Dave Stewart, Noël Gallagher…), some of whom were not on tour and exclusively crossed the Atlantic to participate. Obviously at a high fee but, in the land of money, when you love, you don’t count!!!

Rock At Night was present at four of those magical evenings this year.


The daughter of British actor Richard RIDINGS stopped off at the BS, opening for PASSENGER.

Freya Ridings – Photo by Yves Jude

FREYA RIDINGS, knew how to highlight her soft melodies, highlighting her voice full of feeling in a pop rock register, drawing heavily on her latest opus “Blood Orange”. A pop appeal to tracks like  ‘Wolves’ may well see her topping the charts as the first snows come to the Swiss mountains. FREYA, dressed in a golden shimmering sequin top and a long black skirt, conquered the Swiss public, in a very successful set. As an “encore” , her two super hits “Lost Without You” and “Castles” set the house on fire!!!


It was an evening that surpassed all expectations and perhaps we discovered the last English Troubadour. The modern Dylan. Nowadays, how can an artist keep 

1500 people in suspense with just his voice and a guitar.

Passenger – Photo by Yves Jude

PASSENGER’s show is a combination of singing and comical narration. His beginnings as a street musician for five years, give him a certain status of a storyteller. Throughout the show, Rosenberg entertained the crowd not just musically, with his great guitar play and his raspy voice, but with some crazy anecdotes between or even during the songs as well. He began his set apologizing to everyone who had purchased a ticket, thinking they were coming to see the band PASSENGER!! Having opted for a solo career a few years ago, he decided to keep the name!!! There were many highlights during this intimate show, but we will remember the storyteller about his song “Riding to New York” and the beautiful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound Of Silence” song.

For those who love NORAH JONES’s soft and enhancing  voice, she was one of the most expected artists of the Festival. Every time Miss Jones performs in Europe, she comes on stage with different musicians. She captivated the audience right from the start, with the excellent backing band accompanying her. Mostly known as a jazz singer, certain purists tend to say it isn’t Jazz but Jazzy folk. «Jazz or not » was the title for the evening. Her setlist revisited some classical hits such as “Sunrise”, “Come Away With Me” and also went back to more recent hits like “ I’m Alive”. Even though it’s been three years since she put out an album of fresh material (“ Pick Me Up Off the Floor”), her setlist retraced her twenty-year career.

Norah Jones

She surprised the Swiss audience with a big gift, when she moved to the center of the stage. It was extremely appreciated when, playing with a Fender Jaguar, she took a blues rock road on “Don’t Know What It Means”. It was a perfect show. Norah Jones brought down the house and received a well-deserved standing ovation.

GOGO PENGUIN was the support act to Norah Jones for the evening. Both belong to the closed circle of Artists signed to the prestigious BLUE NOTE label. Although considered jazz, GOGO PENGUIN are perhaps at the forefront of the modern jazz movement. Their new album “Everything Is Going To Be OK” describes loss, change and heartbreak.

Gogo Penguin

With new and classic songs, the band showed great chemistry.Each member was playing his part to bring the song where it needed to go. A beautiful performance which was entitled to two encores.


Joss Stone

Joss Stone was accompanied by a fantastic band and a trio of backing singers, showing them her respect throughout the evening. Fans came from all over. Just happy to be at a Joss Stone’s concert. Ready to dance and sing. She started with a fantastic soulful medley…”You had me“ – “Free me Bad” – “Bad Habit” – “You got the Love”. Her energy and love spilled out from the second she walked on stage. From Rock to Jazz or Reggae to World music, the former Hippie–Girl kept seeking contact with the excited audience dancing and singing along. Highlights came from some cover songs such as White Stripes song “ Fell In Love With A Girl’ and “Some Kind of Wonderful” from the Soul Brothers Six title and a Reggae medley. Joss Stone, singing with her heart and soul, cut through it all. The show was absolutely amazing, so beautiful and well put together that she could nearly steal the show from Dave Stewart!!! But not at all….As always the Baloise Session has this amazing way of choosing fantastic artists to spoil their public ! Dave Stewart was another surprise…


Dave Stewart

It was at the Baloise Session that the public was gifted (once more) with Dave Stewart’s first performance of the “Eurythmics Songbook: Sweet Dreams 40th Anniversary Tour”. A fantastic way to celebrate Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), a pop milestone released in 1983, at the top of sales for two years. Annie Lennox gave her blessing for this wonderful idea as she stopped touring in November 2022 (induction of Eurythmics at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Dave Stewart hit the stage with musicians and singers…beautiful female artists!!! He was joined by Vanessa Amorosi – vocals, RAHH – vocals, Dave’s daughter Kaya Stewart – vocals, Hannah Koppenburg – keyboards, Indiara Sfair – harmonica & backing vocals, Jasmine Ogilvie – sax, Iris Gold, Julia Lamb – bass guitars & backing vocals and Ellie East – drums

“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s wonderful to be back here in Baloise …, I was here maybe twenty years ago. It wasn’t in this room, I remember, but it was somewhere else (laughs) but…. I don’t remember!!! (laughs)… Dear Dave, we know! It was in 2002 and we were there. You played on stage with Joan Shawn Taylor, Candy Dulfer and Jimmy Cliff. What a night!!! 

Dave Stewart, Joan Shawn Taylor, Candy Dulfer and Jimmy Cliff – 2002

He then presented his “amazing lineup of fresh musicians” It isn’t unusual to see an all-female band these days, but straight away we knew this would be a winning bet. Wearing a shimmering  black silver suit , Dave led the band through a set in which fan favorites were sprinkled with bangers from that mystic Sweet Dreams album. The show brought us back to 1980 covering the group’s greatest songs. The breathtaking level of musicianship was very impressive. Kaya Stewart and the other two beautiful vocals were holding steady and strong. Kaya’s been singing “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)” since she was five sitting on Annie’s knee and she gave a beautiful and talented rendition of this hit. As the night drew to a close, Stewart welcomed on stage the British soul superstar JOSS STONE which led a performance of “Sisters are Doin’ It For Themselves”. Ending this fantastic show with “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This”, Dave Stewart put the fire on the house. The crowd went wild, singing and dancing throughout these eternal hits and full of stars in their eyes!!! It was a mighty performance fit for the rising of such an amazing city and a sonic and coloured festival.


The Baloise Session closed this 2023 edition with Gentleman opening for UB40. 


With UB40’s timeless classics and Gentleman’s more contemporary style, it was the perfect choice for the “Reggae Rules” night.

Reggae gigs, with full of people ready to dance, GENTLEMAN was surprised to see the audience seated at tables. Known as an energetic performer, it didn’t last long! The (many) Gentleman’s fans stood up to dance and sing along to the front of the stage, leaving the very few ones staying seated. One of Gentleman’s fans was so enthusiastic singing every word that he ended singing lyrics into the mic! A usual GENTLEMAN interaction power! Many were present for him but the audience was expecting UB40! 

The UK Reggae Legend actual line up maintains 3-4 original members. The new frontman Matt Doyle (replacing Ali Campbell at vocals) did a great performance.


The band mixed old hits and a few of their new songs. The concert was a perfect balance of classic titles and teasers which announced their upcoming album named UB45. The celebration of not less than 45 years of existence! When they played the famous hits “Red Red Wine” and “Kingston Town.”, people couldn’t resist and  were dancing and singing along! At the end of the show the party was really on! In front of the stage or around the tables everyone went wild, having great fun! For the early fans, it was a return to the roots, their youth more than 30 years ago! 

Beatrice Stirnimann & Jose Oliveira

Many thanks to UB40 and to Beatrice Stirnimann and  the Baloise Session team for these fantastic moments and, as always, for their warm welcome.

With great memories it was the perfect night to end the festival and to celebrate Jose’s and his dear wife Elisabeth’s 50th wedding anniversary! 

Rock At Night interviewed Robin Campbell, UB40’s leader, before the concert.


UB40 Interview 

RAN– It’s a big honor to watch the biggest reggae band in the world tonight! 

First of all, we would like to have some news about your fantastic Bass Player, EARL FALCONER. Is he better? 

Robin Campbell – yes, he’s much better. He was very ill. Meningitis is a very bad infection. He’s recovering very quickly, it’s remarkable. He’s in excellent health and he was always very fit before this happened. But meningitis takes a few months to recover. Thank you for asking! 

RAN – What can the audience expect tonight? 

With Robin CAMPBELL -UB40

RC– Pretty much the same thing that we have every night which is hopefully a party. We like to play, we have to play some songs the audience excepts to hear “Red red wine”, “Can’t help falling in love” …But we also like to play a few new songs  to introduce them, just to let people know that we still make records. Of course we’ll play many hits. But really the most important thing is that the audience is standing and dancing. We hate sitting audiences. They’re all sitting at the tables but I’m sure they’re allowed to get up and dance. So they’ll all be singing and dancing and having a party! That’s what we want every night!

RAN– Did you see the fantastic GENTLEMAN’s concert tonight?

RC– No, we just arrived. But we know him. He collaborated on one of our tracks a few years back. He’s a very established artist, very well known in Germany but also internationally. We asked for him tonight. 

RAN– Despite a couple of line changes, four founding members are still in the band. How do you explain your long career and this great success? 

RC– You can’t explain it, you just enjoy it you know. We just do what we love and we hope that our fans come with us .As we change, as we develop, as we write new material, we just hope our fans like it too. We just do what we love! That’s all we can do, you can’t just work out why you have the success. You have to be true to yourself and the audience will come with you. 

RAN – When you started, Reggae music was threatened by Punk. Forty years later, Hip Hop and Rap seem to be the most popular movements. Are you going to resist? 

Robin Campbell & Jose Oliveira

RC– …No (laugh). It was a massive thing to be playing reggae in front of a punk audience you know! We were part of the punk movement but we were at the same time. We had many punk fans because they liked reggae! So for us that was great, we had an instant audience also, that was part of the groove. We tried to keep up with them. But all you can do, technically, it’s just embrace the changes, hopefully the advances and just enjoy them.

RAN– Ali Campbell is ‘passing off’ his now solo project, as UB40. This causes a lot of confusion for the fans. He’s pretending to be the real UB 40. Can you give us your feelings?

RC– It’s very sad really. When he left, he left to go solo. We were happy for him to go to do his own thing but it was a surprise, traumatic . And when his solo project failed, he then decided to take the name and use it to sell his tickets and his records. As you say, it’s confusing for the fans. That’s the worst thing about it, it’s that the fans buy tickets to see him thinking that it’s UB40 but they’re not! They’re seeing a wreck lead singer and his backing band!

RAN– Can you confirm that the only song he wrote was “My Way Of Thinking”?

RC– That was the only song he ever wrote in 30,40 years! Again, he tells his fans he wrote all the songs, the songwriters are still in the band, we write the songs and we’re still writing the songs! 

RAN– Thank you very much for this interview, looking forward to seeing the concert.


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