Sting sings with strings and more at the UNO Lakefront Arena...
At a sold-out New Orleans Arena three years ago, Sting performed alongside
guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland, lucratively reunited as The
Police. On Saturday at a not quite full UNO Lakefront Arena, Sting shared a
stage with a slightly larger ensemble - the London-based, 45-piece Royal
Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, plus an additional guitarist, bassist, backing
vocalist and two percussionists.
Symphonic collaborations are not new to pop music. Everyone from the Moody Blues
to Metallica has gotten its orchestra on. But few have taken one on the road for
as ambitious an outing as the 'Symphonicity' tour.
Framed by a smart, Spartan and decidedly contemporary stage set, the 50-odd
musicians recast chestnuts from the Police and Sting's solo catalogue, some more
radically than others.
Sting stood front and centre with his band and the orchestra, conducted by
Steven Mercurio, seated on tiers behind him. He injected harmonica into the
opening 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'. A clarinet solo wove through
'Englishman in New York', as the musicians set down their instruments to lead a
The string section spruced up the chorus of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is
Magic' with a playful, jubilant refrain that amplified the lyric's romantic
The orchestra built a grand, ominous structure around the Cold War morality play
'Russians'. Sting stepped aside as a gong crashed, French horns harmonized in a
mournful dirge, and a single snare drum tapped out a military cadence. The
thrilling piece, a highlight of the evening, resolved in a solo trumpet.
The spooky noir of 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was also a revelation, filled with
plucked violin strings and long, low notes from the French horns; Sting
manipulated the volume and pitch of a theremin, an electronic device that
produces eerie, horror movie sounds. 'Desert Rose', another highlight, was a
grand swirl of Arabian elements.
Violins and cellos faced off in a call-and-response during 'When We Dance'.
Violins deflated before the final ''there's a little black spot on the sun
today'' line in 'King of Pain', only to take exhilarating flight once again with
''I have stood here before inside the pouring rain.'' Women on the arena's floor
defied ushers to dance up front.
If anything, Sting should have allowed the orchestra to take even more
liberties. Strings could do little more than saw away in an effort to keep
abreast of Dominic Miller's electric guitar in 'Next To You'; the uptempo opener
of the Police's 1978 debut 'Outlandos d'Amour' bears more than a trace of the
band's punkish origins. The arrangements of 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Fields
of Gold' essentially mimicked what was there all along.
'Roxanne' received a modest bossa nova makeover. Miller's acoustic guitar
carried 'Shape Of My Heart'. 'All Would Envy', a castaway Sting composition
about an older man and his younger bride, contributed little to the show.
Backing vocalist Jo Lowry soared on 'You Will Be My Ain True Love', wailing the
Alison Krauss part in a duet Sting wrote for the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack.
Lowry and Sting lost themselves in the intimate profession.
At 58, Sting's voice is undiminished; he can still sustain high notes and dial
up nuance. And unlike his grin-and-bear-it posture at that Police show three
years ago, he was chatty and gregarious. He prefaced many songs with anecdotes
and one-liners, which went a long way toward neutralizing the obvious potential
He recalled visiting New Orleans for the first time in 1979 following a Police
show in Baton Rouge. Walking from Bourbon Street's epicenter to quieter blocks,
he felt as if he was being followed; that was the genesis of 'Moon Over Bourbon
When writing 'Tomorrow We'll See', he said he let the music inspire the lyrics.
''What emerged from the music disturbed me greatly'' - the tale of a transsexual
He took a dim view of English foxhunting until a fox raided his farm's henhouse
and ''killed every f----- chicken I had.'' The orchestra enlivened the chase
described in the subsequent 'End of the Game'.
As a boy, Sting was fond of 'Bonanza' and other Westerns. His own efforts to
write country songs encountered ''a problem with authenticity. I don't look good
in a hat.'' Thus, he was thrilled when Johnny Cash covered his Old West gallows
tale 'I Hung My Head'. On Saturday, it rode in on a majestic sweep of strings.
The evening wound down with 'Fragile' and its Spanish guitar. Sting returned one
last time for a largely a cappella 'I Was Brought To My Senses'. In the end, the
night boiled down to Sting's voice and songs. Both more than held their own.
(c) The Times-Picayune by Keith Spera