Sting plays the Met - Sting takes the stage at the Met for the first of two nights...
Two years and three postponements after he was initially scheduled to perform there, Sting finally arrived at The Met Tuesday for the first of two sold-out shows. (He’ll be back there tonight [Wednesday] then in Atlantic City at the Hard Rock on Friday and Saturday.) Whether it was the pandemic-necessitated time off or just the rare clean-living rock star lifestyle, the 70-year-old took the stage in fine form and finer voice, decked out in black jacket, T-shirt, and leather pants.
Dubbed “My Songs,” after the songwriter’s 2019 cash-grab collection of rerecorded, minimally reconceptualized classics, the current tour is primarily a stroll through Sting’s prodigious back catalog of hits. That notion is more welcome on stage than on record, as Tuesday’s nearly two-hour set was packed with indelible melodies and catchy reggae-lite grooves.
The one digression from the string of hits was a four-song mini-set from The Bridge, Sting’s latest album, released late last year. “You’ve had your hits,” the singer told the crowd with a touch of feigned resentment before sharing the “bad news” that it was time for some new songs. “I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.”
Self-deprecation doesn’t sit well on an artist so notorious for self-regard, and the gibes seemed aimed at an audience that hadn’t earned them. While they took their seats for the first time for the new material, they were taking their cue from Sting himself, who perched on a stool for that stretch of the show.
The songs themselves were pleasant adult pop, performed with slick polish: the jaunty whistled refrain of “If It’s Love,” the Spanish-tinged ballad “For Her Love,” the infectious “Rushing Water.” But it was clear that the packed house was there to hear the songs they’d grown up loving. People slowly started returning to their feet for “I Hung My Head” from 1996′s Mercury Falling, better known for Johnny Cash’s late-career cover version; more rose for the silky “Fields of Gold,” but it was the lively “Brand New Day” that got everyone moving again.
The original version of that 1999 single, Sting noted, featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Here it was a showcase for harmonica virtuoso Shane Sager, whose youth was the target of some teasing from the bandleader but whose audacious playing made the song one of the show’s most exhilarating moments.
Age was a recurring subject throughout the evening; introducing “I Hung My Head,” Sting took a quick survey of the crowd’s knowledge of vintage Western TV shows, gauging the average age by their familiarity with Wagon Train, Rawhide, or Bonanza (whose familiar theme Sting briefly quoted on his well-worn Fender Precision bass). He explained that he’d had two ambitions in life: to be a musician and to be a cowboy, the latter goal hindered by a lack of “authenticity” for a kid from the north of England.
The subject of authenticity wasn’t broached later in the set when the band ran through a string of reggae-influenced songs from the Police repertoire. A slowed down “Wrapped Around Your Finger” reshaped that 1983 hit with a reggae lope, leading into the dub-inspired “Walking on the Moon.” At the end of “So Lonely,” Sting did acknowledge that tune’s obvious borrowing, turning it into a medley with “No Woman No Cry.”
Starting with “Message in a Bottle,” nearly half of the show’s 21 songs were culled from Sting’s days with the Police. That was followed by the singer’s first solo hit, “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” and the graceful “Englishman in New York.” Though it wasn’t quite the end of the show - that came with a “quiet and thoughtful” solo acoustic rendition of the title track from The Bridge - the climax was certainly the one-two punch of “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne.” Even given the sometimes over-polished performance and the unfortunate pseudo-jazz pastiche of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” that interrupted “Roxanne,” those two songs were still thrilling live.
The songs throughout the night were flawlessly executed by a deft band featuring the guitar tandem of longtime sideman Dominic Miller and his son, Rufus. Sting introduced the ensemble as a “family band,” slyly remarking that bespectacled drummer Zach Jones was Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s son. In addition to the Millers, the frontman’s own son Joe Sumner opened the show with a half-hour set of his own songs (he’ll headline his own show at MilkBoy on Monday). The younger Sumner looks and especially sounds uncannily like his father, so when Joe joined the band for a closing romp through the Police’s “Driven to Tears,” the father-son duet looked like something out of the time travel film Looper.
(c) The Philadelphia Inquirer by Shaun Brady
Sting still rocks the hits after more than 40 years on the road - the Rock Hall of Famer entertained a sold out show at the Met Philadelphia...
In the middle of a 2-hour set at the Met in Philadelphia Tuesday night, Sting sat on a stool in the middle of stage and talked about hit songs.
“I knew I had a hit song when I was walking along the street and taxi driver was whistling (the Police song) ‘Roxanne,’” Sting told the sold out crowd.
For the most part, the hits was what the first of back-to-back sold out shows by the former Police frontman was all about. Sting, 70, started the show with a rousing edition of “Message in a Bottle” that had the crowd up on it’s feet and singing along and sending out it’s own S.O.S.
Sting was born Gordon Sumner, but he never lost the teenage nickname. He even told and interviewer in the documentary “Bring on the Night:” “My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting, who is this Gordon character?”
The show was part of Sting’s “My Songs Tour,’ which began in May 2019, traveled the world and originally ended at the Met in November 2019. Sting was then scheduled to start a Las Vegas residency in March 2020, but was COVID-delayed twice before getting back on stage in November 2021.
By the looks of Tuesday night, though, Sting probably would have stayed on the road for all of the last two years had everything not shut down.
Sting stood in the middle of the stage playing bass for most of the 20 song set, engaged the crowd and opened up with a few of his greatest hits.
He took a break to play songs that weren’t known to many except his most intense fans off his latest album, “The Bridge.”
“I spent the COVID delay writing a lot of songs about love,” Sting told the crowd. “I’ve been in love many times. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve broken hearts.”
The quieter, more introspective songs still kept most people in their seats, because, well, Sting is still one of the top entertainers in the world.
After that brief respite and a story about his love of television westerns, Sting went back into his trove of danceable, sing-along songs made famous over the last past 41 years.
After the break for new songs, Sting went straight through without a break playing such famous songs as “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “Walking on the Moon,” “So Lonely” and “Every Breath You Take.”
As many performers his age, Sting has adapted most of his songs to an older voice and a slower stage presence.
He did give a rocking blast-from-the-past extended rendition of the aforementioned “Roxanne.”
“I was told this song has become a college drinking game,” Sting said to the crowd as the he slowed the song down. “Students put on this record and take a shot every time I say Roxanne. Well, for the record, it’s 17 times. Don’t try this at home.”
Sting’s son, Joe Sumner, who opened the show with a set of songs mostly about love lost and falling in love with the wrong people, came on stage for the Police’s 1980 hit “Driven to Tears.”
The show ended much like Sting has done for the past 40 years, with a slower song. This time he brought out the acoustic guitar to play “The Bridge,” the title song from his latest album.
Sting, though, is not slowing down. He will play another show at the Met May 11, and will be in Atlantic City May 13-14 at the Hard Rock Casino. Joe Sumner, meanwhile, will stay around for a bit in Philadelphia for a solo show at Milkboy Philly on May 16.
(c) The Times Herald by Vince Carey