Sting and Shaggy, O2 Academy, Birmingham...
A few things go through your mind when you hear Sting and Shaggy are collaborating, producing an album and touring live.
First reaction is, what? The second is, that could really work.
They are both very talented, the nucleus of their work is based around reggae, and they can both perform really well live.
Having listened to their album, I knew their live act would be good.
‘44/876’ is an album that grows on you.
The first time I thought it was good, by the fourth time I’d listened to all the tracks, back to back, I was hooked.
It’s a great, feel-good, perfect-for-the-summertime collaboration.
And when it’s converted into a live performance, mixed with some of Sting and Shaggy’s own greatest hits, it makes for a superb night.
Last night at the 02 Academy in Birmingham they had the crowd dancing, swaying, singing, clapping and jumping from the opening track until the last.
The crowd demanded an encore, which explains is all, really.
The title track, 44/876, sets up the album nicely and also started the gig perfectly too, with its easy-going laidback vibe.
‘Wake up to sunshine every morning’, sings Shaggy. It feels that way at the moment.
Morning is a proper reggae track. ‘Sweet nightingale, you’re telling me something I don’t know’.
With the horns, bass, guitar and reggae drum beat, it’s impossible to not sing along . . . ‘wake up, it’s a beautiful day’.
You’d possibly think the egos of two such prominent frontmen might be a problem but far from it, they just bounce off each other’s enthusiasm.
And there was plenty of time for both to fit in some of their own hits, with Sting belting out Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic, which is just a great track.
But they were soon back to the 44/876 album, with If You Can’t Love, which could have been plucked straight from the late 80s and early 90s, when modern reggae dominated the charts.
And then Sting took over again with Message In A Bottle.
Having never seen The Police or Sting live before, it was great to see him perform some of his greatest tracks live for first time.
Love him or loathe him, he has written some superb tracks.
And then it was time to slow everything down with Waiting For The Break Of Day, which is a another mellow single, where both singers let their voices do all the talking, so to speak.
Gotta Get Back My Baby is more of pop-style track and of course the night would not have been complete without some of Shaggy’s own greatest hits.
He was at the pinnacle of his powers in the mid-to-late 1990s.
I can’t remember going to a pub, bar or club at the weekend in my late teens and early 20s without hearing one his smash hits.
Angel was one of those tracks and the whole crowd was singing along and then it was back to the new album again, with Dreaming In The USA.
Now, I’m not sure if that song is tongue-in-cheek or not but I take issue with some of the lyrics . . . have a listen and judge for yourself.
Crooked Tree is probably the track with the most depth and meaning. Based in a court room, it tells a story and takes the listener on a bit of journey.
Sting was soon back singing his greatest hits. One of my personal favourites is Walking On The Moon, perhaps because many moons ago a guitar tutor taught me how to play it.
It’s the track that got me to appreciate The Police and Sting, so I was very happy when he played it live last night.
Roxanne, Boombastic, Can’t Stand Losing You and perhaps Shaggy’s greatest-ever effort, It Wasn’t Me, followed and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
The fans demanded an encore and as the stars returned to cheers and applause, Sting ended the night in the only way he could, really, with Every Breath You Take.
It was the perfect way to round off a wonderful night dancing, singing, fun and good times. Let’s hope they make another album.
(c) Express & Star by James Driver-Fisher