Four Ships and a dead Seagull?
If anyone had said to me I would be seeing Sting in concert at the Public Theater a couple of hours after flying in to New York from London, I would have given them odds of six hundred to one. I hadn't got a ticket, "it's just a detail", and "One simply has to prevail?" I'm eternally grateful to Kristi (from Nova Scotia) for grabbing me from the crowd of fans to be her lottery winning guest for the night.
Throughout my stay in New York, I saw numerous acts of kindness and generosity from fellow fan club members' in helping each other out in securing the last few precious Sting tickets. Also the legendary pre & post-concert fan get-togethers', saying "I'm just going to the Library", takes on a whole different meaning these days?
We had a few bevvies along the way; I was impressed you could get a "Newcastle Brown" in the bar down the street. Although I think a few locals misinterpreted my "I love Newcastle" tee-shirt, (on Birthday night) I was told it's not the place tourists should go to after dark? What you have never been out on the toon on a Wednesday night or the weekend? (I was thinking "ye've gotta be joking, yr taking…" They were in fact referring to New Castle, Pennsylvania or was it the Newcastle in Washington State? Don't you just love sobriety?
Even before I'd heard a single note from the Last Ship, I had the feeling the album was going to be the most important release since the "Soul Cages" (my favourite Sting Album) and the more I hear it, the more it could very well trump it.
To say I had an amazing time would probably be the understatement of the year; it will probably take me five years to process the finer details of all my experiences from all these performances.
We have a phrase that Lydia and I use as shorthand to encapsulate our feelings of a concert, "No Words!" Sometimes it is hard to precisely write down and convey the true emotions felt in the passion and vibrancy of Sting's live performance. Ye swings (in a pugilistic way?) to opposite sides of the emotional scale, from the poignancy of "Ghost Story" (not a dry eye in the house) to the comic genius of "Jock the Singing Welder", I did get a few interesting looks during the Tom Jones lyric, with my shaky leg and quivering lip (though I'm more an air drums kind of guy?)
There are plenty of opportunities throughout the performance to have a good sing-along in the "Shipyard" with our "Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint" (was I really one of a handful of people that got the joke about the long weight/wait?) and to the tubthumping chorus of "What have we got?"
So glad the Birthday concert was recorded for a PBS Special (Broadcast date to be confirmed) so we can relive this incredible evening and to fully appreciate the vocal range of the amazing Wilson brothers.
We certainly packed a lot in during our visit, burning the candle at both ends, and the rest, and, yes, I even saw somebody walking a corgi (close to the theatre) one evening, her majesty doesn't visit "of a Tuesday?"
In some ways it is hard to imagine Sting ever having a lyrical drought, the lyrics coming copious and fast like a river's torrent flowing to the sea, his gift for rhymin' couplets the envy of literary circles the world over. The narrative must move the story on, we are told, song inclusion may turn out to be a pugilistic endeavour. Sting's Monday morning meetings are a far cry from the ones I have to attend, the musicalization is way more interesting in his team briefings.
Laugh, I'm tickled, especially any references to "Seagulls" in Sting's lyrics, yes we were lucky enough to see Trudie in Chekhov's play as well. One of the character's ends up like father O'Brian (by the end of Act 2), and there is dead seagull to boot in the storyline. You had to be there, to enjoy the subtleties and adaptation of the script.
That film "Spartacus" by Stanley Kubrick lyric got a great reaction from the audience. I chuckle at the notion of getting on the wrong train to Sunderland and ending up in Leeds. In the deep and distant past I've ended up near the "White Cliffs of Dover" at Dover Western docks where trains terminate or fade to black. I've traveled to some great romantic locations in my time!
Taking of romance has "When We Dance" sounded this exquisite before? Jo Lawry's vocals stunning as always, and "Practical Arrangement", wow and is that a "real diamond she be wearing?"
This is really a brief snapshot of proceedings; it's been a real privilege to talk to most of the band and crew, during the week. I must mention the "Language of Birds" I love the narrative, but the live version is longer than the album version, any chance of a 12 minute extended mix? (A musical paradise in the making) I must also make a special mention of the visuals on the video screens during the performance. Most prominent during "Language of Birds" In total sympathy with the lyrics and the emotional landscape, the staff from radical.media (the creative team behind the Sting App), have again set the bar at the highest level in visual production.
What a rousing version of "All this Time" to be the final song, (Do I detect a hint of irony here?) The captain of the ship is in total command of all he surveys, the shipping forecast for Chicago looks good, more surprises and spoiler alerts no doubt to follow, just got to make sure I don't lose the effin' map and find the theatre?
(c) Roger Puplett for Sting.com