Sting and Peter Gabriel get cozy with each other's material at the Hollywood Bowl...
Peter Gabriel had a stark realization before hitting the road with old pal Sting for their joint Rock Paper Scissors tour: He was going to have to stand next to the famously fit former Police-man.
So, the more generously proportioned ex-Genesis frontman decided to hit the yoga mat. Gabriel told a Hollywood Bowl crowd Sunday that he didn’t see results at first, until Sting helpfully noted that he would actually need to move on said mat.
On Sunday night during the first of the Brit rock pair’s two sold-out shows, Gabriel quipped that after a mere three lessons, “No one backstage can tell us apart. We’re known as the Tantric twins.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-ensconced duo - backed by the combined power of a baker’s dozen of world-class musicians - played two hours and 40 minutes of some of their best-loved songs with a giddiness and verve that illustrated the enduring nature of their catalogs. From “Solsbury Hill” to “Sledgehammer” and “Message in a Bottle” to “Desert Rose,” and many points in between, the show was a gleeful jukebox of impeccably played songs.
Affectionately spurring each other on all evening - Gabriel kept referring, with endearing goofiness, to his comrade as “Mr. Sting” - the pair traded vocals, sometimes took lead on each other’s songs, provided backup and danced side by side in a performance that ran the spectrum from sobering politically conscious ballads to ecstatic full-tilt rockers.
If Gabriel is perceived as the more solemn of the pair - with his patented still-to-explosive tunes, such as the frenetically percussive opener “The Rhythm of the Heat,” which moved from claustrophobic to manic - he was also the most active and verbose. He busted out his patented bounce and spin dance moves and waxed comic about a previous visit to Los Angeles in which he was approached by a man at a party who offered his help. The man was a plastic surgeon.
Sting was quieter and more rooted to his bass but just as nimble vocally, reaching back for the high notes of the ’70s and ’80s with impressive effortlessness.
Occasionally, one would cede the stage to the other. Sting’s band ripped through Police classics “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “Roxanne.” Gabriel, meanwhile, lit into “Big Time” and moved with the gospel-inflected duet “Don’t Give Up,” accentuated here with gifted backing vocalist Jenny Abrahamson. He also took a near solo turn on the poignant “Love Can Heal,” dedicated to the late British MP and friend Jo Cox.
The mention of Cox’s shooting death was one of several nods to the state of current global affairs. While flags flanked the stage at half-staff, the two segued from the Police’s percolating lament “Driven to Tears” into Sting’s meditative “Fragile,” which he prefaced with a speech about combating unspeakable cruelty and mindless hatred with empathy. Next was Gabriel’s propulsive cri de coeur “Red Rain,” resulting in a powerful one-two-three punch. Sting also nodded to Brexit by singing a bit of Genesis’ “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.”
The night was more uplifting, however, when both men were onstage reinterpreting each other’s songs or singing in harmony. Sting took the lead on Gabriel’s hip-shaker “Shock the Monkey,” Gabriel gave Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” a casual bluesy and serpentine retrofit, and they joined for a triumphant take of Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that found Sting and Abrahamson subbing for Youssou N’ Dour.
”Every Breath You Take” and “Sledgehammer” put a joyous exclamation point on what was a lively musical conversation.
Near the start, Sting had said that the shows had prodded both men out of their comfort zones. Perhaps, but they clearly found common ground.
(c) Los Angeles Times by Sarah Rodman
Sting and Peter Gabriel are a perfect blend at the Hollywood Bowl...
Early in their respective careers, Sting and Peter Gabriel seemed to come from parallel universes. Gabriel first gained fame fronting arty and oh-so-serious progressive rock band Genesis, while Sting led the bleach-blond, effervescent ska-pop trio the Police.
Their musical paths have definitely converged in the decades since, and when the two elder statesmen – Sting, 64, Gabriel, 66 – arrived at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday on their Rock Paper Scissors tour, they were a perfectly meshed pairing. They sang each other’s lyrics, finished each other’s sentences and even engaged in a bit of light-hearted banter.
Gabriel proclaimed it “karaoke night at the Bowl” and the two riffed on their disparate hometowns, with Sting hailing from the port city of Wallsend, England, while Gabriel is from bucolic Surrey. “He grew up in the shadow of great ships and I grew up in the shadow of great cows,” Gabriel joked.
They also did some shtick on their differing fitness regimens, with Tantric yoga enthusiast Sting eventually displaying his impossibly ripped bod in a tight T-shirt while Gabriel kept his presumably doughier physique well-concealed by a baggy black hoodie.
The night began powerfully with the thundering drums of Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat” after which Sting arrived to perform “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.” The latter tune, written in 1993, features the now-timely lyric “You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians/ They all seemed like game show hosts to me,” though Sting played it straight, without winking to the audience about the line’s prescience.
Early highlights included Sting singing lines from Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” and Gabriel providing harmonies on Sting’s somber hymn “Fragile.” While Sting went to the Police well frequently for songs such as “Driven to Tears” and “Message in a Bottle,” Gabriel avoided Genesis – the only song from the band’s catalog to be performed was a truncated “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” with Sting on vocals.
The stellar 14-member band featured musicians long associated with the two artists, such as drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting) and bassist Tony Levin (Gabriel). Though officially divided into a red band (Gabriel’s) and a blue band (Sting’s) the players were mixed and matched to fit a particular song without regard to affiliation.
In particular, backup singers Jennie Abrahamson (Gabriel) and Jo Lowry (Sting) frequently stepped into the limelight, with Abrahamson nailing the Kate Bush parts on “Games Without Frontiers” and “Don’t Give Up.”
The show really gained traction as a crowd-pleasing singalong in its later stages as the headliners delivered one familar song after another, starting with “Big Time’ and continuing with “Englishman in New York” (Sting’s nod to early gay rights activist Quentin Crisp), “Solsbury Hill,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” the last performed in a hilariously gruff, spoken-word style by Gabriel.
Sting brought down the house with an extended take on “Roxanne” that eventually segued into a loose, jazzy jam before morphing again into Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
With the crowd still on its feet, Gabriel shared his memories of an idealistic woman he had met at a leadership conference two years ago. She had spent her career working for charities but was thinking she could have greater impact if she entered “the murky world of politics,” Gabriel said. The woman was Jo Cox, who was elected to Parliament as a member of the Labour Party last year and then stabbed and shot in a fatal attack last month while meeting with constituents during the contentious run-up to the U.K.’s vote on whether to leave the European Union.
“She was effectively assassinated by some racist,” Gabriel said before performing “Love Can Heal” in her memory. It was a heartfelt tribute but also a definite buzzkill after the previous run of up-beat songs. Perhaps it should be slotted earlier in the proceedings.
The show regained its momentum by the time of the main-set closing “In Your Eyes,” which was expanded into a full-blown tent-revival spiritual. After the obligatory exit from the stage, the performers returned for an encore of the biggest hit by each artist – the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” which sent everyone home satisfied.
(c) OC Register by Jeffrey Miller