Selected Miscellaneous Shows

San Francisco, CA, US
Davies Symphony Hall

Harmony and Heartstrings: Sting’s Intimate Valentine’s Day Concert with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall...

The Sting concert with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall last night was a mesmerizing journey through the iconic artist’s storied career, interspersed with personal anecdotes that added depth and intimacy to the performance. As Sting took the stage amidst the elegant backdrop of the symphony, he not only delivered breathtaking renditions of his classic hits but also invited the audience into his world, sharing the autobiographical stories behind each song.

One of the highlights of the evening was Sting delving into the inspiration behind “Roxanne,” a song that emerged from his encounters with the seedy underworld of Parisian nightlife during his time with The Police. He recounted the tale of a French prostitute named Roxanne, whose plight served as a metaphor for the struggles of marginalized individuals. Through Sting’s vivid storytelling, the song took on new depth, revealing the complexities of love, desire, and redemption.

Similarly, during the performance of “Fields of Gold,” Sting transported the audience to the fields of his home in England, painting a vivid picture of the landscapes that surround it. With evocative imagery, he wove together memories of love, infusing the song with a sense of nostalgia and longing that resonated with listeners on a new level. Against the backdrop of the symphony’s lush instrumentation, Sting’s storytelling brought a sense of intimacy to the grandeur of Davies Symphony Hall, creating a truly immersive experience for all in attendance.

Then came “Englishman in New York”, a timeless classic that provided a glimpse into Sting’s experiences navigating life as an outsider in the bustling metropolis of New York City. Inspired by the life of his friend, the eccentric writer, and gay rights activist Quentin Crisp, the song celebrates individuality and resilience in the face of adversity. Sting’s heartfelt performance, accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony’s dynamic arrangement, captured the spirit of Crisp’s unapologetic authenticity, resonating with audiences who have ever felt like outsiders in a foreign land.

Amidst the celebration of music and storytelling, it was also Valentine’s Day, and Sting made a special acknowledgment of the occasion. With warmth and affection, he dedicated a couple of songs to his wife, Trudie Styler, who was in the audience. Expressing gratitude for her unwavering support and love, Sting thanked her for putting up with him for 44 years, eliciting heartfelt applause from the audience and adding an extra layer of romance to the evening.

Throughout the concert, Sting’s personal anecdotes served not only to entertain but also to humanize the music, reminding us that behind every song lies a story waiting to be told. Whether recounting tales of his time with The Police or reflecting on his solo career, Sting’s storytelling added a layer of authenticity to the concert, forging a deeper connection between artist and audience.

In the end, the Sting concert with the San Francisco Symphony was more than just a musical performance - it was a journey through the life and experiences of one of music’s most enduring legends. With each song and story, Sting invited us to share in his triumphs and tribulations, reminding us of the power of music to transcend boundaries and touch the soul.

(c) MusicinSF by Louis Raphael

Sting brought the love (and classics) to SF Symphony...

'Roxanne,' 'Russians,' 'Every Breath You Take,' and other selections from the singer's long career warmed Davies Symphony Hall

Wednesday night was special.

This photographer has seen Sting perform many times over the years. With many different bands. Supporting many different albums. But Wednesday—Valentine’s Day, with wife Trudie Styler in the audience—Sting and The San Francisco Symphony took the audience on a singular, grand tour of a legendary career.

The music was re-imagined and re-composed for the event, which elevated his familiar voice to new heights, with all of the grandeur that a great symphony can. The audience was treated with new insights into Sting’s life, the songs, and his views. Despite the cold, rainy gloom outside, Davies Symphony Hall was warm and cozy.

Sting hit the stage with conductor Edwin Outwater to the applause of a loving crowd of fans, and welcomed everyone to the show. He started telling stories about the early days of The Police and the genesis of his first song, “Roxanne.” He then went on to play hits like “Englishman In New York,” “Fields Of Glory,” and “Why Should I Cry For You?”

Before playing “When We Dance,” he talked about his song creation process. How themes like “I love you, and you love me” are virtual dead-ends, whereas “I love you and you love someone else,” now, “that gets interesting.” At the end, Sting held the notes for “I had a dream last night…” for 30 seconds while the symphony played soaring notes that raised the intensity of his falsetto tone.

He next discussed his two childhood dreams: One was to be a musician, the other was to be a cowboy, inspired by TV shows “Rawhide,” “Maverick,” and “Bonanza.” He played “I Hung My Head” which took on new meaning with that backdrop.

Later, Sting talked about the relationship of fathers to sons and how his own father gave him one piece of advice: Go to sea, see the world, and make something of yourself. He joked that of course, he disappointed him on that last point. This story helped bring new meaning to “Why Should I Cry For You?”

His distain for fox hunting came up—he joked that an unfortunate experience of a fox killing all of his chickens made him re-evaluate his view on this sport. And he played his wife Trudie’s favorite song, which he dedicated to her, “The End Of the Game.”

After a brief intermission, Sting discussed the theme of “The Shape Of My Heart,” about a gambler who is also a philosopher (“Aren’t they all at some point?” he laughed.) He then played three songs from his play The Last Ship, which was cancelled in San Francisco at the beginning of COVID: “The Last Ship” (sung in his natural dialect—a strong British accent—with acoustic guitar); a song about an older suitor in the play (he mentioned that his age was around Joe Biden’s), “Practical Arrangement”; and a song about the younger, more virile suitor, “What Say You, Meg?”

“I would vote for Joe Biden’s Alsatian over Donald Trump,” he said during a portion where he touched on his political leanings, to which the San Francisco audience, of course, thunderously agreed.

Other musical moments: Debut “What Could Have Been,” accompanied by a beautiful violin solo by Wyatt Underhill, followed by “Russians,” “King Of Pain,” and “Every Breath You Take.”

For encores, there were “Desert Rose,” which was particularly beautiful with the symphony, and “Fragile,” after he described the film his wife is making about Naples, Italy - and how a local priest featured in the film, Don Antonio, asked Sting to perform at the local prison, with a guitar made from colorful blue and red wood recovered from fishing boats and refugee boats that had washed ashore.

(c) by Jon Bauer

Sting joins SF Symphony for sublime career retrospective concert...

Sting celebrated Valentine’s Day with the San Francisco Symphony on Wednesday in Davies Hall, singing great songs from his long, illustrious career and telling the stories behind them.

It was a nearly perfect show, the only fault being that the prolific musician (calling it a “profound honor” to appear with the classy orchestra) could have touched on even more from his deep and wide catalog of Police and solo tunes.  

“I’m chuffed,” he said, looking suave in all black, greeting listeners in the sold-out hall after taking a seat onstage in front of the full orchestra, led by Edwin Outwater. Sting said his wife Trudie [Styler] was in the audience, cutely calling their 44-year partnership a show-business anomaly that should be measured in dog years.  

The intimate setting provided the songwriter the opportunity to begin with the story of how, in the 1970s, he was an innocent schoolteacher from an English village near Scotland’s border playing in a London band on a low-budget tour that ended in Paris - where the group shared seedy lodgings with ladies of the night.  

Fascinated by them and prompted by a poster for a production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Sting said he “conjured up a woman that changed my life beyond all recognition.”  

“Roxanne” — the Police’s first American single and later a signature tune —sounded sublime backed by the orchestra’s lush strings in this concert hall version. Rob Mathes, producer, composer and longtime Sting collaborator at the keyboards, did the uniformly gorgeous arrangements of the evening’s selections.  

In the 1980s, after Sting moved to New York, he met Quentin Crisp. Sting said the famed elderly gay British raconteur whose life in the U.S. ultimately worked out (he was pleased to be a legal alien) inspired him to write “Englishman in New York.” The rapt audience briefly sang along with its wise, inclusive refrain, “Be yourself, no matter what they say” and clarinetist Carey Bell played the distinctive solo.

Perhaps the most rockin’ tune of the show was “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” including another sing-along on the e-ohs.

“Fields of Gold,” an ethereal number (again benefiting by the majestic sound of a live orchestra), Sting said, came about simply as a response to harvest time in the English countryside in the castle near Stonehenge he and Trudie purchased in the 1990s. (“If you knock on the door, I’ll make you a cup of tea,” he said, to the audience’s delight.)

A writer of many love songs, Sting called 1994’s ballad “When We Dance” interesting because it’s about, “I love you and you love somebody else”; then shared his love for country music in “I Hung My Head,” which was covered by Johnny Cash, but not particularly twangy in the symphony hall.

The beautiful and melancholy “Why Should I Cry for You?” describes tensions between fathers and sons, something Sting witnessed in his family of seafarers from a shipbuilding town. He developed the theme in his song cycle and musical “The Last Ship,” from which he played “Practical Arrangement” and “What Say You Meg?” (The show’s 2020 engagement in San Francisco was cut short due to COVID.)  

A song about fox hunting, or about two lovers against the world, is how Sting described “The End of the Game,” his wife’s favorite of his songs, while the mysterious and haunting “Shape of My Heart” explores how all gamblers are philosophers, he said.  

Associate concertmaster Wyatt Underhill tore up the dramatic, nearly violent, violin solo on a new tune from 2021, “What Could Have Been,” from the video game Arcade, while “Russians,” written about the Cold War, unfortunately has become politically relevant again.  

Sting’s vocals got a touch ragged on “King of Pain,” from The Police’s final studio album, with its eminently sing-able chorus, eclipsed only by “Every Breath You Take,” which, according to Wikipedia, music licensing giant BMI in 2019 named the most played song in radio history.  

Sting encored with the lively, North African-tinged “Desert Rose” and ended with “Fragile,” playing a special red-and-blue painted guitar handmade by inmates of a high security prison in Italy. (Its location in an Italian town, he said, is the subject his filmmaker wife’s new documentary “An Ode to Naples.”)

With vivid images of nature, poetic lyrics evoking the range of human emotion, commanding rhythms and stick-in-your-mind melodies, the concert’s two closing tunes (like much of Sting’s output) exemplify just why he remains a pop music superstar.

(c) Bay City News by Leslie Katz