Sting review: My Songs tour hits Vancouver, showcasing a career full of classics...
Literate and lively, Sting plays songs from throughout his history.
Over the course of the gig, 21 songs spanning the singularly named U.K. musician’s career are delivered in versions first presented on his 14th studio album, 2019s My Songs. Following the trend among star artists to re-release their back catalogues best showcased by Taylor Swift’s near-complete catalogue personal “versions,” Sting reconstructed, reimagined and revised many classics to both suit his present vocal range and to showcase different elements in the compositions.
How does that work when your signatures are a one of a kind voice and ridiculously fluid, reggae-tinged bass lines? In many cases, not in ways that would present any challenges to fans to identify the source material.
He still belts out classics like Message In A Bottle and Desert Rose pretty much the way they first appeared.
But on gems such as If You Love Someone Set Them Free, the groove is subdued. With harmonica ace Shane Sager dropping lead harp solos into the song that are part-Toots Thielmans/part-vintage Stevie Wonder the upbeat 1985 smash is suddenly smooth as silk R&B. And its composer’s delivery is equally Zen-ed up. To say that the 71 year-old singer is still on top of his game is understatement, but where there used to be a growl now their is a seductive, mature purr.
He makes every note flow like the next yoga pose; smooth, flexible and strong.
Not only does the guy look better than most men half his age, he plays with the ease of a jazz veteran walking his fingers around his bass. Caressing out rubbery grooves and occasionally taking mini-solos while Jamaican reggae veteran Kevon Webster picked up the main melody notes on his keyboards, Sting was a study in flow.
Longtime guitarist Dominic Miller followed suit with tasty atmospheric licks on Walking on the Moon or classical guitar lines on Fields of Gold that add new textures to the tunes. Not that there aren’t still edges to the songs.
Tour drummer Zac Jones may look like British game show professional Josh Widdicombe’s tattooed younger brother, but he is proper precision razor rhythm machine. His cymbal work and rim shots in the soulful Mad About You are a standout and he pulls off perfect Stewart Copeland in the pounding So Lonely. Unfortunately, this rocker features a little break of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry which just reinforces that the only person who should every do Marley songs is, well, the late Bob Marley.
Some of the evening’s most original contributions to the classics comes from backing vocalists Gene Noble and Melissa Musique who each were given moments to shine in the show. Musique practically owned Heavy Cloud No Rain and you could see Sting loving every moment of her belting out.
After a long career where he has put himself front and centre at all times, the man born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner has found ways to share the stage with his players and draw out more depth in his pristinely crafted material. That he plays it in a manner that can only fairly be described as adult now is only fair. This isn’t an artist with anything to prove to anyone. He can leave that to an opening act, his far taller son “Big” Joe Sumner whose family resemblance is clear if not in his more clipped and less expressive vocals.
Joe joined his father for King of Pain.
If you wanted a concert where the spotlights and L.E.D. wristbands shared equal-or-headline billing to the players, then the recent Coldplay show was a far better fit. For a night of music that has stood the test of time, the My Songs tour delivered.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Sting only sold the lower levels of Rogers Arena, with the upper sections blocked off by black curtains. In some ways, it was as though he’d come full circle back to when the Police played the PNE Gardens long, long ago.
Then, he was a hungry artist looking to breakout. Today, he is a seasoned veteran clearly loving entertaining his fans that have followed him throughout the many different eras of his musical journey.
If he every decides to try a different path, I suspect that his health regimen videos would be a huge hit.
(c) Vancouver Sun by Stuart Derdeyn