Hello Syria! Joss Stone plays the world’s most unlikely gig

Published by The Mail on Sunday (3rd March, 2019)

When British singer Joss Stone, barefoot as usual, walked on stage and greeted the crowd, she began one of the strangest concerts ever, writes Ian Birrell.

For a start, it was 11am, an unlikely time for a show. Then there was the venue, a small hall in Derik, in the north-eastern corner of war-torn Syria. 

Bizarrely, Friday’s audience of 70 was made up of about two dozen uniformed foreign fighters with a Kurdish militia, along with five middle-aged women, some excited teenagers and a few curious families with children.

To cap it all, Stone was accompanied by photographer Paul Conroy, sneaking back into the country for the first time since he was wounded in the 2012 Syrian rocket strike that killed war reporter Marie Colvin – as seen in the hit film A Private War.

Stone, 31, who is on her Total World Tour and aiming to play in every country on the planet, said: ‘It was very different – we have played 174 countries and that was unique. But I’m really happy to be here.

‘This is a very small section of Syria where people come to be safe but the rest of it is not safe. They still seem to be bombing the hell out of each other but everyone here could not be nicer or more welcoming.’

As bemused Syrians and soldiers looked on, Stone performed such songs as Burt Bacharach’s The Look Of Love before proclaiming: ‘We are made stronger by our mistakes’ and launching into her hit Right To Be Wrong.

Among the audience was Monty, a 50-year-old former British soldier who joined the YPG (People’s Protection Units) three months ago. ‘That was surreal, but it was great to hear a British voice,’ he said.

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