Jackie and I went to see a band last night that performed astonishingly powerful and convincing covers of many of the greatest hits of the Police, and also several from Sting’s long solo career --- it was 2 ½ hours of almost continuous rock-music listening ecstasy, with even better musicianship than we got in the original recordings from decades ago; and the lead singer in particular did Sting better than Sting himself sang back in the day.
But here’s the thing – the lead singer of the cover band we saw last night was….. Sting himself! ;)
Sorry for the brief deception, but I wanted to get the point across of how amazingly good a concert it was that we (and 5,000 of our fellow Portlandians) were privileged to experience; and in particular how Sting, despite being old enough to be on Medicare (he turned 65 in October), is still at the absolute top of his game as a musical performer – in particular, he, unlike some other iconic male rock vocalists like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and James Taylor, seems to be singing even better than he did in the early Eighties – he was sipping vinegar apple cider during the show, so you aging rock stars, take note of that magic elixir!
When I bought our tickets a few months ago, my modest expectation was that Sting, together with his new “Police-Men”, Dominic and Rufus Miller (father and son) on guitars, and Josh Freese on drums, were mostly going to be doing cuts from their new album – which I found to be pretty good on prior listening, but not in the same league with Synchronicity or Nothing Like the Sun – and do a competent job of it. So I thought it would be a wonderful nostalgic experience—and in Jackie’s and my case, it would also be filling an old void, because when we went, with great expectations, to see Sting in Miami in the late Nineties, he was in the midst of a respiratory illness which, despite his heroic efforts, diminished his powerful unique voice. This time, at the very least, we’d get to hear Sting sing live with his real voice --- but boy, did he and his musical accomplices ever wildly exceed expectations last night!
From the first minute of the show (which began exactly at 8 pm as scheduled, a sure sign of the strong professionalism of this tour) to the end of the third and final encore at 10:30 (again, as advertised), the able replacements for Summers and Copeland made it clear that the only irreplaceable part of the Police’s greatness was Sting himself. Plus, a great extra bonus of the evening was that Sting & his new musical crew (actually, Sting pointed out that he and Miller the father went back 3 decades of music making) were backed up during the entire show by the members of the Last Bandoleros, a great young Tex-Mex-ensemble out of San Antonio who (joined by the equally talented accordionist Percy Cardona) performed a fabulous opening set; and also by Sting’s own son, Joe, who performed 3 enjoyable solo songs–and it was a little spooky hearing his unmistakably Sting-like voice, singing clever lyrics like his Dad’s with lots of flair, compensating for his not having inherited his father’s superabundance of raw vocal talent.
So the whole show was a kind of big-band rock concert, with tight harmonies, a great wall of well defined musical contours impeccable playing of all instruments, and just a general collective euphoria, expertly and continuously fed by Sting’s mastery of stage presence, that did not stop till the end of the haunting final encore. That was “The Empty Chair” played by Sting alone on acoustic guitar, a song about James Foley, the brave journalist so horribly murdered publicly by Isis a few years ago, a song Sting wrote for the soundtrack of Jim: The James Foley Story, for which Sting worthily received an Oscar nomination.
And the best news for Sting fans around the country is that this was only the second stop in his North American tour (they played Vancouver, BC two days ago), and the schedule… http://www.sting.com/tour ….reveals that they’ll be hitting pretty much every major city in the US during the next month, before they finish their tour in Europe.
And finally, if you want verification of my rave review, to be sure this wasn’t just my relief at finally hearing Sting sing without laryngitis, just read the following writeup they got after their Vancouver gig, which mine independently echoes on many points:
So, if you were ever a Sting fan, DON’T MISS HIM NOW, and get his latest message in a bottle, while the getting’s great!
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