Normally an artist of Sting’s statue singlehandedly sells out an arena, or in the case of The Police’s feverishly anticipated reunion, a stadium or massive festival. But on a tour supporting “57th and 9th,” his first rock/pop record in 13 years, the always unpredictable singer/songwriter/bassist intentionally returned to his club roots, resulting in a mad dash of standing room only tickets at the uber-packed Aragon Ballroom.
The time between acts was so slim there was barely time to hit the bathroom, but it resulted in a much tighter tour that culminated with Sting and his world-class backing cast blazing through four decades in nearly two hours.
Even with all the years in between regular records, Sting has hardly been idle thanks to a lute-centered classical project, a Christmas collection, re-recordings of past favorites with a symphony, a retrospective box set, multiple live documentations, his very own original Broadway musical, plus concert collaborations with his aforementioned band, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. Nonetheless, it’s nice to having the veteran back to doing what he does best on stage, especially considering it came with the hunger of someone who hasn’t explored this side of his musical personality in quite a while.
Prior to officially plugging in, Sting actually opened up for himself with the new, travel-themed acoustic reflection “Heading South On The Great North Road,” followed by an introduction of his sound-a-like son Joe Sumner for a brief set. From there, Tex-Mex powerhouses The Last Bandoleros (who also appear on the deluxe edition of “57th & 9th”) delivered a foot-stomping sampler from its self-titled debut EP, which also featured the headliner making a cameo on tambourine towards the end.
The time between acts was so slim there was barely time to hit the bathroom, but it resulted in a much tighter tour that culminated with Sting and his world-class backing cast blazing through four decades in nearly two hours. Outside of a slightly lowered key on some of the older songs, the super fit Sting defied his 65 years of age, starting with the punk-ish rumbles of The Police’s “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits In The Material World,” plus a pumped up nod to his jazzy solo beginnings with “Englishman In New York.”
Unsurprisingly, the current collection was frequently on display, and while cuts such as “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” “Petrol Head” and “50,000” (inspired by the recent passing of so many fellow musicians) couldn’t rank alongside the classics, they were at least molded with that essence in mind. Sting also touched on a few previous examples of genre hopping, including the country-tinted “I Hung My Head,” the adult contemporary ballad “Fields Of Gold” (marred a bit by idle background chatter) and the smoothly sophisticated “Shape Of My Heart.”
Yet it was the back half when Sting’s most engaging side surfaced, from massive crowd pleasers “Message In A Bottle,” “So Lonely” and “Desert Rose,” through a clever intertwining of “Roxanne” with Bill Withers’ soul standard “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The encores also kept right on coming with an expected but no less pleasing version of “Every Breath You Take,” which combined with all that came before, may have coaxed those who didn’t take notice of Sting’s countless detours back to keeping their eye on this perpetual creative presence.
Click here for more Sting photos from the Aragon Ballroom.
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