With top tickets running $252 each and a pair of widely acclaimed classic rockers sharing the stage, Sunday night's Sting and Paul Simon concert at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center promised an evening of polite, polished nostalgia.
The crowd of more than 7,000 got just that, plus an entirely unexpected mid-show detour, with malfunctioning equipment threatening to derail the evening Simon introduced as their own "musical experiment."
Things started out smoothly, with Sting and Simon offering joint performances of Sting's "Brand New Day" and "Fields of Gold" and Simon's "Boy in the Bubble." The idea was that they'd share the stage for a few songs, then split off and take turns doing brief solo sets, rejoin for some more songs, and so on.
Sting, 62, used his first set to dip into the Police's storied back catalog ("Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Driven to Tears") and his earlier, pre-lute solo days ("Englishman in New York," "I Hung My Head"). And unlike the last time we saw him during his orchestral tour that hit the X in June 2010, Sting didn't screw up any of the arrangements too much.
Simon, 72, cracked a tantric sex joke at Sting's expense (a scripted bit he's done at other tour stops) and wrapped his still-supple vocals around classics like "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Me and Julio Down by the School Yard" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." The pleasant surprise, though, was "Dazzling Blue," a celestial, twinkling track from Simon's most recent album, "So Beautiful or So What." It was the night's only selection from the 21st century and Simon's subtle, gorgeous vocal performance held the crowd in a hushed awe.
Apparently, Sting and Simon have been buddies for years and are neighbors in New York. (Does Sting's wife Trudie sign for his packages when Simon is on vacation?) While there wasn't any immediately obvious chemistry between them, they both seemed relaxed and amiable, especially since both of their backing bands shared the stage for the evening.
All of those musicians on the same stage, however, may have had something to do with a technological meltdown that hit Sting near the top of his second solo set. Out of nowhere, Sting's microphone started squealing like it was caught in a wind tunnel, and the sheer noise brought the show to a halt. After some nervous fumbling by scared-looking roadies, Sting tried again but couldn't get through "Roxanne" without more sound problems. For a few minutes there, it looked like the show might be over for good, until someone figured out the issues were limited to Sting's side of the stage.
From there, the set list went out the window and Simon took over with a spirited run through "The Obvious Child" (after he flubbed the intro, he restarted it with a laugh) "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "You Can Call Me Al." For the encore, Sting returned to play Art Garfunkel for breathtaking runs through "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "The Boxer." If they ever tour together again, they should tackle even more Simon and Garfunkel material, as those two tracks made it easy to forgive the earlier troubles.
(c) St. Paul Pioneer Press by Ross Raihala
For more reviews from the St. Paul show please visit http://www.sting.com/tour/date/id/2916
where you can view the setlist, leave your comments about the show, post images of your ticket stub and your photos from the show!