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Laura Pausini attracts 9,000 strong crowd

Italian singer Laura Pausini shot straight to the heart of a 9,000-strong audience at Luxol Grounds on Tuesday, giving a passionate, non-stop, two-hour performance to the accompaniment of her fans.

She may have been one hour late - reason being quite simply that "she's an artiste" - but once she hit the stage, which was successfully occupied by tenor Joseph Calleja and Michael Bolton on Sunday, there was no stopping her pleasing the crowd.

She sang in Italian, Spanish and English and not always alone as the audience knew the lyrics, singing along and even pre-empting her on her classic hits like La Solitudine to tracks from her more recent album.

She paid tribute to King of Pop Michael Jackson, singing Heal the World and displaying his image on the big screen.

Shifting smoothly through her music, she barely stopped to change her outfit three times, interacting with the audience and emerging with a Maltese flag, expressing her regret for not having performed in Malta before.

On tour to promote her latest album, Laura Pausini flew in on the afternoon of the show and left that same evening. She has been at it since February and is scheduled to complete the tour shortly. Her next concert is in Cagliari but Italians on holiday took the opportunity to watch their idol here.

Organisers NnG Promotions said the audience surpassed Sunday's by about 2,000 because of the different ticket price range and the fact she appealed to a wider following, unlike opera.

Following two almost back-to-back successful concerts, they said they had no more plans for this summer but they had something up their sleeves for the end of the year and the wheels were already in motion for next year's concerts.

"Joseph Calleja is a given and we are sounding out top names to see who else to bring," said director Anton Attard.

The Maltese are growing accustomed to big concerts in the summer and their appetite would have to be satisfied. They are also improving as an audience and reacting better to performers rather than just standing there and occasionally clapping self-consciously.

Things are also improving for the organisers, whose track record is making it easier to attract the stars.

"In the recent past, we would never have dreamt of bringing over such high-calibre performers but this is now becoming a possibility," Mr Attard said.

Director Nigel Camilleri added: "Malta is slowly finding its way on the route of bands' tours when they are being planned. Before, it was not even considered... at all! Now, they are becoming aware of our good infrastructure, which is helped by the fact that other big names have performed here."

The island is still disadvantaged, however, by the fact that it is not part of mainland Europe, which means singers cannot just drive to the next venue and perform in a day. Coming to Malta required the same time as two concerts elsewhere and that had always been a drawback, the organisers said.

They thanked the public for their support, which has encouraged them to bring over more and more high-quality performers for their enjoyment.

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