Backed by orchestra, Sting delivers a stellar Atlantic City show...
After selling millions of albums, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame, writing an autobiography, releasing an album of lute music and even
reuniting with his Police bandmates for an international tour, what else did
Sting have to accomplish?
How about touring with a 45-piece orchestra? That's exactly what Sting's current
tour - cleverly dubbed 'Symphonicities', the same name of the accompanying album
that hits stores Tuesday - is offering his long-time fans. But Sting decided not
just to tour with any orchestra; he enlisted the assistance of the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra, which has backed everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to Tina
Sting, working from a rehearsed repertoire of 36 songs, offered 28 songs in a
two-and-a-half-hour concert Friday at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa here that
showed off the songwriter's diverse catalogue. The sheer power of the orchestra
certainly did not overshadow Sting's still-amazing vocals. The 58-year-old's
pipes are still able to hit all the high notes, and years of hard touring on the
road have certainly not aged the British superstar, who looked remarkably
youthful in an all-black ensemble that included a tight, buttoned jacket.
Reuniting with The Police in 2007 seemed to reinvigorate the singer, whose solo
shows have seemed a tad lacklustre over the years. His collaboration with the
Royal Philharmonic builds on his personal stage resurgence, as he seemed eager
to devour his material Friday night yet relaxed enough to enjoy himself.
Transforming Sting and Police songs to orchestral pieces isn't all that
shocking. Unlike bands like KISS and Metallica, who teamed with orchestras for
albums and concerts, a good deal of Sting's catalogue already possesses
intricate compositions, particularly The Police material he co-wrote with ''uber''
composer Stewart Copeland.
Masterfully conducted by the animated and entertaining Steven Mercurio, 'Symphonicities'
opened brilliantly with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' as giant, moving light
panels eventually turned into video screens above the orchestra. While the sound
mix made the orchestra difficult to hear for the first four songs, most of the
crowd didn't seem to notice.
'Englishman in New York' offered a light, jazzy tone that sounded like it could
be in a Woody Allen film, followed by the Police staple 'Every Little Thing She
Does Is Magic', a highlight of the night, and 'Roxanne', retooled into a
quieter, softer form with gorgeous orchestration that breathed life into the
Most of the night's selections were wisely chosen and wonderfully executed.
Ballads such as 'When We Dance', 'Straight to My Heart' and 'Why Should I Cry
For You?' were more powerful than the originals.
As expected, the crowd reacted positively to The Police re-creations than
anything else, particularly 'Every Breath You Take' and 'King of Pain', which
really was spectacular with the orchestra's support.
However, there were some less-than-stellar moments, particularly when the songs
were over-orchestrated to the point that they felt like Broadway tunes,
particularly the sleep-inducing 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'. Other times, the
orchestra didn't seem to make an impact on the music. 'Next To You', 'Fields of
Gold', 'Desert Rose' and 'A Thousand Years', while all crowd pleasers, didn't
sound that much different to the originals.
Backup vocalist Jo Lawry wasn't overly impressive. Her weakest moment was when
she stepped in for the recorded version of Mary J. Blige on 'Whenever I Say Your
Name', but she redeemed herself on 'You Will Be My Ain True Love', which Alison
Krauss originally sang with Sting.
Oddly enough, despite the tour's title, 'Synchronicity II' wasn't offered, which
was surprising, since it would have worked well with the large orchestra. It
would have also been nice to hear 'Walking on the Moon', 'Spirits in the
Material World', 'Brand New Day', 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', 'Don't
Stand So Close to Me' and 'After the Rain Has Fallen' instead of the noir-ish
'Tomorrow We'll See', 'The End of the Game' and the trumpet-fuelled 'All Without
Sting, as always, charmed the crowd with his English accent and sometimes-witty
stories. Even more than usual, Sting talked about his songs and explained where
many of them came from, including his love of Westerns - he held up a DVD
collection of 'Bonanza' - that led to him writing 'I Hung My Head', which was
covered by the late Johnny Cash, one of Sting's proudest moments. He even
dedicated 'Fragile' to the people in the Gulf who lost their jobs because of the
recent oil spill.
Sting never seems to run out ways to reinvent himself while keeping himself
amused. His latest experimentation couldn't be more successful and entertaining.
For music lovers, it doesn't get much better than this.
(c) The Press of Atlantic City by Scott Cronick