Sting rocks out with orchestral maneuvers...
''It's the biggest band I've ever had,'' bragged Sting about the Royal
Philharmonic Concert Orchestra that is accompanying him on a tour promoting his
new album 'Synchronicities.'
Featuring orchestral versions of songs famous and obscure, the show was
fittingly performed at New York's illustrious Metropolitan Opera House. ''I've
gone legit,'' the singer jokingly explained.
The latest in a series of stylistic forays that have marked this restless
artist's post-Police career, the shows are a natural progression from his
excursions into the jazz and classical realms. Looking far too good for his 58
years and sounding terrific, Sting was visibly exuberant as he delivered a
nearly three-hour show that traversed his entire career, including plenty of
rarities along the way.
Besides the 45-piece orchestra conducted by the exuberant Steven Mercurio, the
line-up also included several of Sting's long-time players as well as special
guest Branford Marsalis, who provided his sinuous sax playing on the show's
opener, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', as well as numbers like 'Englishman in
The results, as is so often the case with these sorts of experiments, were
mixed. Too often the arrangements - provided by several contributors, including
Michel Legrand - gave the music the feel of a movie soundtrack, adding texture
and bombast to the music but too often failing to provide revelatory aspects. In
many cases, the orchestral versions bore a marked resemblance to the originals,
with precious few changes from the original tempos and little melodic
The numbers that were the most arresting were the ones that deviated the most
from the original versions. A slowed-down 'Roxanne' provided room for haunting
cello and clarinet solos; 'Whenever I Say Your Name' benefited from a sterling
violin intro; the brass section provided a suitably martial atmosphere to 'You
Will Be My Ain True Love', written for the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack; and some
sultry trumpet solos provided appropriate atmosphere for 'All Would Envy', about
the relationship between an older man and much younger woman.
On the other hand, the sumptuous, Muzak-style arrangement of 'Every Breath You
Take' gave it a generic feel, robbing the song of its hauntingly menacing
implications. Two songs particularly benefited from the orchestra's
contributions: 'Russians', featuring musical quotes from Prokofiev and
Mussorgsky, was delivered with thrilling bombast, and the strings on 'Moon Over
Bourbon Street' gave it the ominous feel of a Tim Burton movie soundtrack.
Sting was in chatty form throughout, providing lengthy song introductions that
were alternately humorous, autobiographical and professorial. He clearly was
buoyed by the wildly enthusiastic response of the crowd and relishing the
opportunity to revisit many songs that he hadn't performed in years.
(c) The Hollywood Reporter by Frank Scheck