Soul Cages

Wallsend, GB
Buddle Arts Centrewith None
Electrifying Sting returns to his roots...

Any trepidation the star may have had about his homecoming was quickly dispelled last night. He even triumphed by showing he's two-faced - in the nicest possible way.

Sting returned to his roots by playing at the Buddle Arts Centre in his home town of Wallsend for the first time since pre-Police days and performing acoustically.

Then he reaffirmed his prowess with an electric - and electrifying - set at the City Hall, where he also gave fans a taste of the acoustic sounds, although in this setting it was the plugged-in playing that really raised the roof.

As well as his own solo songs such as 'Mad About You' and 'Why Should I Cry For You?', he covered Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze'.

And Sting returned to his Police beat with rousing renditions of 'Roxanne', 'Walking On The Moon', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message In A Bottle', to the joy of a packed audience who delighted in singing along.

Northumbrian Pipes virtuoso Kathryn Tickell joined Sting and his talented, compact band on stage for 'Island Of Souls', which opened last night's acoustic section that also included 'The Soul Cages' and 'Wjen The Angels Fall'.

The contrast at 24 hours earlier could hardly have been greater: the Buddle concert room is just about the size of the City Hall's stage and the atmosphere, depsite a radio broadcast and TV video-recording was more relaxed and intimate.

Even Sting's garb heightened the difference: baggy shirt and trousers on Satrurday; a return to the American SWAT-cop pants, T-shirt and boots of Police days last night.

The acoustic playing was more free-flowing and jazzier, while there was the added delight of seeing him roll back the years to the days before Gordon Sumner - nicknamed Sting by fellow members of Last Exit because of his hooped sweater - buzzed off to find fame and fortune in London.

He was joined on stage by his old pals Gerry Richardson on piano, John Hedley playing guitar and the ebulient drummer Ronnie Pearson. At one point they even shared the spotlight with his current band - two to a piano stool and two to a drum kit - for 'When The Lights Are Low'.

It also gave Sting the chance to reminisce with to an invited audience, which included several relatives, about how Last Exit had agreed to go to London. But after a couple of weeks there waiting, he discovered the others had found pressing reasons for staying on Tyneside - what might have been.

And Sting recalled how, when they were playing on an SS Oriana cruise, the purser approached to ask him to stop singing as he was upsetting the women passengers., so Ronnie had to take over. ''There's a moral there, somewhere,'' said the star.

(c) Newcastle Evening Chronicle by Peter Kinghorn

Sting rocks his roots...

Sting - the Geordie milkman's son who became an international pop star - last night showed he's gotta lotta bottle.

For he faced his fiercest critics in the city he once slammed as a slum...

By playing to an exclusive audience - including his grandmother - at the Buddle Arts Centre, Wallsend.

He looked close to tears as he said: ''I'm too nervous to play here. This is the very place for me to start my world tour.''

Sting laughed and joked about his days at the Buddle when bingo players in the next room would tell him to turn down the music. But we can reveal that behind the scenes the superstar had the jitters.

The rock star - known to his old Tyneside mates as Gordon Sumner - told his band... ''This has GOT to be perfect.''

He rehearsed for five gruelling hours without a break before his two hour gig. It's the first time in five years that Sting has played before his home crowd. And the Buddle, a converted school building was the first venue he ever played.

But despite his own nerves, Sting went out of his way to make Northumbrian Piper Kathryn Tickell, feel at home. Sting asked her to play alongside him last night and she will play again tonight and tomorrow at his City Hall concerts.

''It wasn't planned at all,'' said stunned Kathryn before the show. Before the show Sting admitted he wants to shake off his Geordie-bashing image. He said: ''I've said a lot of rubbish in the past.''

(c) Unknown newspaper by Sarah Stephens

Classic performance as Sting comes home...

Squeezed onto a tiny stage in the middle of the arts centre, Sting and his double bass were joined by his new band, Americans David Sancious on the grand piano and Vinny Coliauta on drums, together with Dominic Miller on guitar.

Tension was high before the gig which was broadcast live by radio across the country. All the songs were acoustic and rearranged to fit in with the jazz melodies and movements now so much a trade mark of Sting's work.

A version of Bill Wither's 'Ain't No Sunshine' sounded superb and songs like 'Every Breath You Take', 'When The Angels Fall' and even 'Walking On The Moon' were made for the acoustic treatment.

Sting's brother Phillip, sisters Angela and Anita and 84-year-old grandmother Agnes were among the special guests in the audience together with members of his old Tyneside band Last Exit who even played a few numbers with their former colleague.

It was the first performance by Last Exit since 1976, when Sting left for London to form the Police. Wallsend was the childhood home of Sting and the subject of his latest album 'Soul Cages'.

The internationally renowned rock star returned to Newcastle following the death of his father, determined to rediscover his roots.He has always retained his links with the Buddle Arts Centre, a former school once attended by his mother. After the concert he said: ''I have had a long relationship with the Buddle and used to know the people who ran it, and I donated their PA system. It seemed the logical place to play.''

He continued: ''I have done all those big gigs and I have nothing left to prove. It seemed more daunting and challenging to play a tiny place and see how it worked. You cannot pretend anything. You just play and sing. It was the first time many of the songs had been played acoustically and it had kept the band 'on their toes'. It could have been a disaster tonight. I haven't played the double bass for years,'' he said, showing the blisters on his fingers.

(c) The Northern Echo by Nigel Vincent

A tug at the heartstrings...

Sting was brought up just a few streets from where he was sitting. The prodigal was back for a sentimental journey in front of his granny, brother, two sisters and others, about 140 people in the round. He was performing in an arts centre that used to be a school attended by his late mother.

Outside, few streets which Sting knew remain, having disappeared with the Tyneside shipyards.Sting knows he can't make a living doing this sort of show, but it was a fitting opener for this current short tour based around the new album 'The Soul Cages', with its ships and river imagery and dedication to his late father.

Sting's fingertips were covered in fabric Elastoplast because he hadn't played the double bass regularly for some time, so the skin had not hardened. Such close observation offered all sorts of insights. The atmosphere in the hall was respectful, and although the American members of the band were somewhat bemused at the community surroundings, Sting was content, indulging in less showmanship and more tenderness than arenas allow.

He started with the reflective All This Time, an upbeat, almost jokey number about a dying man. Then it was into the lusty 'Mad About You'. Here was Sting at his best, giving what felt akin to a sitting room recital to friends rather than a rock concert.

Sting joked about his father. ''He only gave me one bit of advice. Don't get married, and go to sea.''

Sting certainly ignored the first, but his travelling lifestyle is a rich man's equivalent of the latter. These words introduced 'Why Should I Cry For You?' It was melancholic and stripped bare, exposing raw emotions.

More bittersweet tales unfolded, notably 'Island Of Souls', where Kathryn Tickell came on to play the subtle Northumbrian pipes, squeezed but not blown.

There was plenty of introspection, a self-indulgence for which Sting made no apology. But there was also something slightly intimidating about the intimacy of these surroundings. Sometimes it's easier to express feelings to strangers than to friends, and there was a sense of bottled-up emotion. The mood relented after about an hour as the inevitable Police songs were played.

'Walking On The Moon' and 'Every Breath You Take' felt fresh by appearing unrehearsed, Sting deciding on the spot how he was going to arrange them, mainly in a tinkering, jazzier style.

Then came a playful interlude with his old mates from Last Exit, the local jazz group he left in 1976. They knitted together neatly on 'Way Down East', a song by harmonica player Larry Adler. The last time Sting played in Wallsend with Last Exit was at the Coronation Club, and they were told to turn it down because they were disturbing the bingo next door. There were no fears of that this time.

There was more mucking around later but the real end of the set came with 'Fragile'.

Sting swapped the bass for electric guitar to gracefully serenade the ghosts of his past who must have been resting peacefully after this homage, like the rest of us.

(c) The Daily Mail by Spencer Bright

Stage ambition still burns for Sting...

Rock star Sting is hoping for a stage come-back as an actor when he finishes a world concert tour, he said today. The millionaire superstar has launched a British tour with sold-out dates tonight and tomorrow in Newcastle and five nights at the Hammersmith Odeon in London this week, with more to be announced. But says he would still like to do more acting.

He said: ''I would like to do another play, but it depends on what is offered. I did a play last year on Broadway and that was a wonderful experience.''

The 39-year-old former lead singer of the Police has appeared in controversial films, such as Dennis Potter's 'Brimstone and Treacle', but is currently concentrating on music with his new hit album 'The Soul Cages'.

Last night the man who can pack a 200,000-seat stadium played to an invited audience of only 140 at the Buddle art centre in Wallsend, Newcastle, where he was born. The audience was packed with family and friends, including his grandmother, brother and two sisters, part of which was broadcast to a radio audience of more than 20 million nationwide.

Later he said: ''I have never played at Wallsend before, and it was just a whim. But whims have a habit of becoming real.

''I have done all those big gigs, and I don't have anything left to prove.

''It is a bit more daunting and challenging to play in a tiny place because people can really see you working and you can't pretend anything.''

His girlfriend, Trudie Styler, is currently in South America helping oversee another of his projects, the Rainforest Foundation, to protect the environment. It has so far raised more than $2 million.

He said: ''Trudie is there for a meeting of scientists and anthropologists. It is part of a process, but there is a long way to go.''

During his acoustic show in Wallsend, Sting played string base with plasters taped over his fingers to protect them, and was reunited for the first time with old friends from a Newcastle jazz group in which he played before he found fame.

(c) The Press Association by Rob Scully