Back to Bass Tour

Seattle, WA, US
Paramount Theater
Sting's "Back To Bass" Tour, 12/5/11, At The Paramount Theatre, Seattle WA

Ever since concluding his big bucks reunion tour with The Police a few years back, it's been back to business as usual for Sting. Which, on his current tour, means it has also been "Back To Bass."

Sting's is currently touring in support of his 25 Years retrospective boxed set, performing a hits-heavy set mainly in theaters and small venues with a relatively stripped down five piece band. During the first show of a two night stand at Seattle's Paramount Theater (on a freezing cold Monday night, no less), Sting and his band warmed up the crowd of adoring, mostly older fans with an energetic, well balanced two hour set drawing equally from both his solo work, and his back catalog with the Police.

Of course, this is Sting we are talking about here. Which meant that his "stripped down" band, still included two guitarists and a miniature string section (specifically, violin and fiddle).

The newer live arrangements of vintage Police songs like "Every Breath You Take," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and "Next To You," while certainly not lacking anything in the energy department, likewise tended more towards an adult-contemporary feel, than his classic eighties period as New Wave's favorite blond cop.

No matter though. With the help of a band that was nothing short of amazing, Sting and company still managed to turn the heat up enough on Seattle's wine and cheese crowd to make them forget the cold outside.

Fiddle player Peter Tickell turned in a couple of particularly jaw-dropping solos, and also re-created the soprano sax parts on songs like "Fortress Around Your Heart" perfectly, with help from Jo Lawry on violin (who also displayed her gorgeous five-octave range on backing vocals). The father-son guitar tandem of Dominic and Rufus Miller likewise had some fine moments (including a couple of cool solos from Dominic using a wah-wah pedal). Monster drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, a recent veteran of Jeff Beck's band, was a dead ringer for Stewart Copeland on the Police songs.

Sting himself often gets a sometimes deserved, but just as often unfair rap for pretentiousness, mostly because of his genre forays into everything from celtic to classical as a solo artist. At the Paramount, Sting was the antithesis of the stuffy performer he is often made out to be, engaging the audience with a humorous sing-along on the ready made for Seattle "Heavy Cloud, No Rain," and name dropping Toby Keith's cover of his country themed divorce song "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying," while adding a disclaimer about Keith's politics.

Sting was likewise in fine voice, showing no signs of his age on vocals, and hitting all the right notes on his signature bass. By the end of the night, Sting had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand, sending them warmly singing their "Whoah-oh's" into the cold Seattle night with an acoustic version of the Police's "Message In A Bottle."

(c) Seattle Post Intelligencer by Glen Boyd

Sting strips down his sound, melts crowd...

Sting, the 16-time Grammy winning singer and bassist, performed the first of two shows at Seattle's Paramount Theatre Monday, Dec. 5. In contrast to his last tour with a 48-piece orchestra, this time Sting stripped down to the minimum. Reviewer Joanna Horowitz found the Monday show personal and masterful. The sold-out crowd brought the star back for three encores.

At the age of 60 with 100 million albums sold, 16 Grammys in hand and the yoga-toned body of a twenty-something, Sting can pretty much do whatever he wants.

Last year it was re-imagine his hits with a 48-piece orchestra. This year it's just the opposite.

For his Back to Bass tour - which stopped at the Paramount Monday and continues Tuesday - the British musician stripped down to a minimal band to touch on highlights of his 30-year career as a solo artist and with The Police.

Sting launched last night's personal, masterful performance with the acoustic-driven rocker 'All This Time', all smiles in a white T-shirt and jeans. The audience gave him a long standing ovation before he could kick into a percussive 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.

With an easygoing candor, Sting waxed poetic about his songwriting process, admitted a love for country music and musical theater and shared the conception story of many songs.

"The two things that fascinate me most in this world are sex and religion," he said, sashaying into the smoky, bluesy 'Sacred Love'.

Musically, Sting's solo work has always veered to the eclectic side of the pop spectrum, and Monday night's show celebrated his collage of influences and versatility. He and his adept band moved easily - often in the same song - between jazz, blues, world, rock and country, changing up tempos, rhythms, keys and time signatures.

Though his remarkably toned voice remained center stage, Sting gave lots of room for his accompanying musicians to shine. 'Seven Days' spotlighted drummer Vinnie Colaiuta's infallible rhythm. Father/son guitarists Dominic and Rufus Miller tore through 'Demolition Man'. Backup singer and second fiddler Jo Lawry had a soaring vocal solo on "Inside."

But it was fiddle player Peter Tickell who quite literally stole the show. An epic, breakneck jam on Western-tinged 'Love is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' brought the crowd to its feet.

Of course, there was plenty of love from the sold-out crowd for Sting. For the third encore, the musician returned alone, trading his usual bass for an acoustic guitar to play 'Message in a Bottle'. The audience cheered and sang backup as Sting smiled.

(c) The Seattle Times by Joanna Horowitz

The 10 Awesomest Things About Last Night's Sting Show at the Paramount...

There's something comforting about seeing Sting with a bass in his hands. That is, after all, how he first endeared himself to music fans as the leader of The Police in the late '70s, one of New Wave's finest - and most enduring - bands. And with his latest outing dubbed the Back to Bass Tour, it was with a four-string in hand that Sting greeted the crowd Monday night, the first of a sold out two-night stand at the Paramount, in which the 60-year-old Mr. Sumner offered up a two-hour set of mostly well-known material, delivered for the first time in many years by a rock band. Here are some highlights from the show:

His voice. Sting has always had one of the most distinctive voices in rock, and the dude can still belt out a song as well as he ever could. Sure, there was no 'Roxanne' to really push the upper reaches of his range, but his voice was in great shape, as was the rest of him.

Punk rock jumps. Ok, that should be singular, but it was still awesome to see Sting do a full-on, knees-bent punk rock jump on the final downbeat of 'Demolition Man'. He is 60 after all. Think Paul Simon can jump like the guys in Rancid? Or Paul Simonon for that matter?

The father-son guitar team. Sting's longtime guitarist Dominic Miller was joined by his eldest son, Rufus, on the tour. The pair flanked Sting on opposing sides of the stage, bringing a familial vibe to the proceedings and making it obvious why his band played so well together: Some members have been together, literally, for a lifetime. "I've known him since he was this high," Sting said of Rufus, who got his hair mussed up by dad at one point during the set. But it was sweet to see the pair playing together and sharing a few smiles, a few knowing nods.

The set list. Sting has a ton of hits, and his three-encore set included many of them. He played some Police songs too, three at the front and three at the back, concluding things with a solo acoustic version of 'Message in a Bottle', the only song he didn't play bass on. Sting said he decided on bass after a musician from Seattle came to his hometown and played his guitar so well he knew he'd never top it. It was Jimi Hendrix.

Heckler guy. As if on cue, the only heckle of the night, a seriously loud, "Roxaaaaanne," echoed through the entire theater over the opening chords of 'Ghost Story', an emotional ballad about the death of Sting's father from 1999's 'Brand New Day'. "There's one in every crowd," the guy sitting next me said.

Song backstories. Keeping his pompousness and pretentiousness at bay, Sting charmed the crowd with the stories behind several songs, including 'Fields of Gold', 'Stolen Car', and 'Love Is Stronger than Justice', which he said was a mash-up of the plots to two of his favorite westerns, The Magnificent Seven and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

The band dress code. Unless you were the band's lone lady, backup singer Jo Lawry, Sting's band was bound by a strict dress code of rock & roll casual. The five guys dressed in tight jeans and T-shirts - laid back rock & roll attire for a laid back rock & roll set. There were three black tees, one with a print, and a white one - for Sting, of course.

Vinnie Colaiuta. Holy snare drum! Colaiuta is an insane musician, and perhaps the only drummer that drummers love more than Stewart Copeland. Colaiuta even plays with his left stick in a traditional grip like Copeland often did. It was nice to see Colaiuta back playing with Sting again, and he made playing the set look easy, which it isn't. He deftly transitioned from restrained to raging, while effortlessly playing songs in difficult time signatures, like 'I Hung My Head', which is in 9/8 time.

Country songs. Sting confessed that he loved to write country songs, something he said he has no business doing as a man from England. He did, however, take pride in Toby Keith scoring a number one hit with 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' and in Johnny Cash covering the murder ballad 'I Hung My Head', which Sting played back-to-back, two of the set highlights.

White light/white heat. There was only one color of light on stage: White, which kept the focus on the music and the stage show pristine. Each musician was bathed in a spotlight during their time to, um, shine, and Sting was occasionally lit from behind, providing just the right amount of drama without being distracting or focusing too heavily on aesthetic.

Sting plays the Paramount again tonight at 8 p.m.

Reporter's notebook:

The crowd: Middle-aged white people.

Fun fact: Sting first played the Paramount in 1979.

Embarrassing confession: As a boy I thought "Message in a Bottle" was called "Mrs. Jinabatu," about some married lady who had a weird name.

(c) Seattle Weekly by Dave Lake