Sting features new songs alongside classics by the Police...
It’s been a good while since Sting strapped on his bass for a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll tour, but that’s how fans found him on Wednesday for the first of two nights at the Hollywood Palladium, salting songs from his new album, “57th & 9th,” perhaps the catchiest pop collection he’s done in two decades, between older solo hits and a healthy dose of classics by the Police.
At 65, the British rocker has written his musical, done his classical album, even gone through the late-career lute phase that most rockers do - kidding! - and now seems perfectly happy to go back to the basics for a bit, with a show that revisited all of the irresistible melodies laid atop rock and reggae and jazz and pop that long ago made your favorite Police chief a star in the first place.
And with 22 songs scattered across an hour and 45 minutes, the crowd in the sold-out Palladium surely got to hear most of what of what they came for, the eight new tunes matched with eight Police songs, the rest of the set made up of solo songs and a Bowie cover.
Of course many the crowd probably only heard 21, because if you didn’t know the structure of the night - Sting serving not only as headliner but host and cheerleader, too - you might not have been there when he strolled out on stage by himself at a few minutes after 8 p.m. to play a new number, “Heading South On The Great North Road,” a lyric based on the only road out of his northern England hometown, before the opening band, the Last Bandoleros, arrived for their set.
Before he played it, though, he told the first of many stories by way of introducing songs and their history, remembering how he and the Police had first played Los Angeles at the Whisky A Go Go in March 1979, and how this Englishman in L.A. flipped out over the first palm tree he’d ever seen.
“I said, ‘Guys, stop the van!’ and they looked at me like I was crazy because I got out and hugged the palm tree,” Sting said.
When he returned an hour later he’d shed the dapper jacket and acoustic guitar for a T-shirt, jeans and his usual well-worn bass, jumping right into the past with a pair of Police hits, “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits In The Material World,” which as we’ve already noted, showed he’d come to rock and rock hard.
His current band features longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, who’s played with Sting for nearly three decades now, Miller’s guitarist son Rufus, who’s been in the band at least since the last rock show Sting played here, a short run at the Wiltern Theatre in 2011, and Orange County’s Josh Freese on drums proving himself more than up to the challenge set by Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s work on the original versions of these songs.
Sting’s activism on various fronts is well-known but with one or two exceptions he stayed away from explicit commentary on recent changes in American leadership. That said, “There is no political solution,” the opening line of “Spirits In The Material World” got a huge cheer from the crowd, as did other lyrics in that song, and his introduction to “One Fine Day,” a climate change-inspired song from the new record, made clear what the rock star thinks of policies affecting that aspect of the world’s health.
“I would love to live in that world where climate change is a hoax,” Sting said. “I would happily be wrong in what I have believed for the last 30 years… but it’s a (bleeping) joke. William Blake, the great English poet said a man who persists in his folly will one day become wise. Let’s (bleeping) hope he’s right.”
Other high points early in the set include the older solo tune “Englishman In New York,” which opened with a slinky reggae-fired bass line from Sting, and the new single, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.”
Various members of the Last Bandoleros sang backing vocals with Sting’s son Joe Sumner throughout the set, and the accordionist for that band of young San Antonio musicians also popped out periodically to add a touch of Tex-Mex to Sting’s sound.
“I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” a country song Sting wrote a few years back, resurfaced in a reggae arrangement. Country reggae probably isn’t going to be the next big genre but it was fun to see him experimenting with the different sounds that long have interested him.
New song “Petrol Head” rocked harder than anything he’s done in decades and “50,000” - a song he wrote after the death of Prince last year, which was preceded by a cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” sung by Joe Sumner - was a touching commentary on the mortality of aging musicians from the rock star’s point of view.
“Shape of My Heart” from the 1993 album “Ten Summoner’s Tales” featured the delicate guitar picking of Dom Miller and on Wednesday filled a spot in the set where earlier stops on this tour the equally gentle “Fragile” was played.
But other than the Arabic-tinged “Desert Rose,” thrilling in its percussive abandon, the last stretch of the show offered one fast-paced rock number after another, classic police hits such as “Walking On The Moon,” “So Lonely,” and the set-closing mash-up of “Roxanne” and Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
The first encore kept that fast pace with the early Police number “Next To You” after which arrived “Every Breath You Take," one of that band’s biggest hits. Both earned huge sing-alongs from the crowd, as did many songs in the night.
After another very short break, Sting returned to stage by himself for a final song, sitting down to play acoustic guitar and sing “The Empty Chair,” the just-nominated candidate for the Oscar for best song, a composition he wrote for the documentary “Jim,” which tells the story of James Foley, the American journalist murdered by ISIS.
“This guy was a true American hero,” Sting said in introducing the number. “Compassionate, inclusive, kind.”
The Last Bandoleros opened with a rousing set of roots-based rock and roll, often with touches of the Tejano music that flourishes in their hometown of San Antonio. They were a whole lot of fun and seem poised for bigger things, and the belief that Sting has in them was reflected when he and his entire band came out to join in on their debut single, “Where Do You Go,” Sting singing backing vocals into a mic shared with the Bandoleros’ bass player.
Joe Sumner, whose band Fiction Plane had a few albums out over the past decade, played a solo acoustic set of three songs, mentioning as he introduced his song “You You You” that the lyrics it shares with the Police’s “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” were his childhood invention.
That’s true, Sting said later in his set, grinning at his oldest son. “He never did get any royalties, though,” he said. “It’s too late now, the statute of limitations has run out.”
(c) OC Register by Peter Larsen
Sting Plays Greats From The Police Catalog Live at the Palladium...
Sometimes life affords you great little moments. You marvel at the thing you’re experiencing and oddly proclaim to yourself, “Wow.” CITI credit card sponsored a series of Grammy week events in Los Angeles at the legendary Hollywood Palladium entitled CITI Sound Vault. The event series features an impressive roster of bands including Beck and Metallica. Tonight’s event was the first of two shows headlined by Sting. Those that purchased tickets were in for an outstanding treat, as in addition to some of the best cuts from his stellar solo career, the mononymous person known as Sting played a whopping eight songs from the catalog of The Police.
Case and point, the set opened on the stellar cuts “Synchronicity II” and the ultra reggae-y “Spirits in the Material World.” Sting’s band included longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, Miller’s son Rufus, his son Joe Sumner along with his bandmates in the Last Bandoleros, and most impressively session drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese. Stellar solo career songs “She’s Too Good For Me” and “Englishman in New York” followed before he transitioned into some of his new material. From his latest album 57th and 9th he continued with “One Fine Day,” “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” and “Down, Down, Down.” Before “One Fine Day” he quipped to the crowd, “I would love to live in a world where climate change is a hoax. But it’s not.” Lamenting certain elements of society’s reticence to accept scientific consensus on climate change, he continued quoting legendary poet William Blake, “A man who persisted in his folly will one day become wise.” He added, “Let’s fucking hope so.”
Many songs - either by virtue of their original arrangement - or in a slight re-purposing for the live band were framed up with a reggae feel and sonic palette. Most obvious featuring this change-up was ‘90s country hit “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying.” Sting explained how a re-recording of it with Toby Keith went all the way to the top of the U.S. country charts years ago, but then added he was glad Keith hadn’t played the song at President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month. A few more tracks from his latest album came next (“Pretty Young Soldier,” “Petrol Head”) and then it was pretty much solid gold from there all the way until the end of the set.
The lovely and soothing ballad “Shape of My Heart” featured the best of Sting’s effortless vocal command. Perhaps the strongest single cut of the evening followed that, the classic Police song “Message in a Bottle.” “Message in a Bottle” could well be pop perfection. Really just three immaculate pieces juxtaposed: the ascending verse, the repeated chorus refrain “I’ll send out an S.O.S. to you” and the descending bassline and call out “Message in a bottle.” Each part kind of begs for the other, and it’s hard not to get excited for each mounting piece of the puzzle. Before the encore break three other amazing songs from The Police’s catalog are played as well: the calming “Walking on the Moon,” the rocking “So Lonely” and the unforgettable histrionics of “Roxanne.” The latter of which was combined with his cover of the Bill Withers’ song “Ain’t No Sunshine” in the bridge before returning to the song’s explosive chorus.
It’s hard to follow a set of songs of that caliber. Sting saved one of his oldest songs for the beginning of the encore, the driving punk rock of “Next to You” from The Police’s debut album Outlandos d’Amour. And fittingly, it all came to a logical conclusion with the luminous mega hit “Every Breath You Take.” Wisely using his son and Last Bandoleros bandmates to bring to conclusion the song’s outro counterpoint, the song is an ominous yet oddly uplifting number. Coupled with everything that came before it, it paints Sting’s status as rightly being as impressive as it is always claimed to be. His reputation is well deserved. It’s hard to compete with the level of craftsmanship and showmanship that was on display here. Few could. And what’s more, few could make it look as easy as Sting.
(c) music.mxdwn.com by Raymond Flotat