10.05.11 Sting concert takes your breath away...


The biggest names in music celebrated the singer’s 60th on Saturday night, watched by Des O’Mahony...

He looks an exceptionally young 60. No doubt the result of a gruelling personal work schedule and his infamous yoga obsession. Sting is a driven, focused workaholic, continually pushing himself workwise and artistically. He has never been the critics’ favourite; most are happier to dwell on his private life and personality traits rather than evaluate the music. As Springsteen commented on stage on Saturday: "It’s funny, anytime I read about him I never recognise the guy I know".

With the demise of The Police in 1984, guitarist Summers and drummer Copeland moved onto specialist oblivion, while Sting remained decidedly centre stage with the release of his first solo album, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, in 1985. Since then, Sting has been either in the studio or on the road continuously, with album after album and tour after tour, including a famous diversion into Elizabethan lute music in 2006, a surprise reformation with The Police and their record-breaking world tour in 2007/8, and a focus on English traditional music with a winter-themed tour in 2009.

Billed as a "birthday celebration with family and friends", and in keeping with his long-standing tradition of being on stage for his birthday, Sting organised a charity event to coincide with his 60th birthday on October 1 in the intimate setting of The Beacon Theatre on Broadway in New York City. The venue is a small 2,000-seater, and tickets were not on sale to the public but I was lucky enough to be there..

Sporting a shaved head, Sting kicks off the evening with a rousing Englishman In New York, with its signature saxophone line delivered by Branford Marsalis, bringing the audience to their feet. Joining Sting were Christian McBride on double bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, David Sancious on keyboards, Dominic Miller on guitar, and a brass and string section. Discussing his Newcastle roots, Sting introduces Jimmy Nail and his son Joe Sumner to sing All This Time, inspired by the shipyards of his hometown. It’s followed by a brace of classics accompanied by the excellent Chris Botti on trumpet, a re-arranged Set Them Free making maximum use of the groove potential in having both Sting on bass and McBride on double bass, working with the excellent Colaiuta on drums.

Bass continued to dominate in a thumping introduction to Walking On The Moon, introducing The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am to take the vocal line, delivering a brilliant rapped outro that marks the highlight so far.

The legendary Herbie Hancock then takes the stage, filling the shoes of the late Kenny Kirkland, Sting’s pianist in the earlier solo albums. Joined again by Branford Marsalis, a jazz club groove effortlessly develops over a number of Sting’s more sedate melodies, such as Consider Me Gone. The Police anchored him in rock. In a very pleasant surprise, Robert Downey Jr joins the stage to sing lead vocal in Driven To Tears, an exceptional performance that gets prolonged appreciation.

R&B diva Mary J Blige delivered a stirring and emotional performance of the duet Whenever I Say Your Name, which Sting wrote for her a number of years ago. Then, just when you think it can’t get any better, Sting introduces Stevie Wonder to join him on Brand New Day, featuring a brilliant harmonica solo by Wonder. This is followed by Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel taking a booming lead vocal on the classic Roxanne. Billy Joel arrives to sing Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and stays at the piano for a few more numbers, as Rufus Wainwright interprets Wrapped Around Your Finger.

The entire show has a fresh, improvised and natural vibe, and the exceptional quality of musicians on stage is apparent. In a quite incredible jazz workout, Marsalis again trades solo after solo with Hancock in a driving When The World Is Running Down, with Sting and McBride walking stunning bass lines over each other. Lady GaGa arrives and gives a stunning and memorable rendition of King Of Pain. Stevie Wonder then returns with a simply incredible rendition of the wonderful Fragile, getting such prolonged applause that Sting has to comment: "How can you possibly follow that?".

Bruce Springsteen roars through his version of the country-flavoured I Hung My Head, a Sting song that had also been covered by Johnny Cash. Swapping a broken-stringed electric for a simple acoustic, Bruce then does his take on Fields Of Gold, an incredibly emotional version laid bare by the Boss. The band again joins Bruce on stage for a crash through the early Police classic, Can’t Stand Losing You, before all guests join in a chorus-line rendition of Every Breath You Take.

The end of October sees Sting kick off the North American leg of the Back to Bass world tour, which will feature a pared-back four piece band celebrating over 25 years of solo work. At 60, Sting has lost none of his abilities.

(c) The Irish Examiner by Des O’Mahony
(3) Reviews and Comments
holyman - 10.06.11
At last an Irish review
Its great that the Irish Examiner were able to have a journalist in New York especially as none of the Irish press bothered to print a review of Sting's brilliant concert at the 02 in Dublin almost a year ago.Lets hope that we will see an Irish date for Sting ( with a review by the Irish press)
pueh - 10.06.11
So emotional!
I was the luckiest person on earth when I had the chance to visit the birthday event on October 1st at Beacon Theatre in NYC. We came straight from Germany just to see Sting on stage. It had been my greatest dream to see this concert and the dream came true! All my life I will always remember this wonderful evening! Thank you, Sting! See you again! Gaby
surpata - 10.05.11
See Ya for Your 61st!
Where ever the concet may be! ~ S
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New Yorkers joined together over the weekend to help millions of their less fortunate neighbors. Robin Hood - New York's largest private poverty-fighter - announced today that combined VIP tickets sales and donations made via texts from Friday night's Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park, donations on robinhood.org as well as ticket proceeds from Sting's 25th anniversary/60th birthday concert at the Beacon Theatre on Saturday night, raised more than $7 million to fight poverty in New York City. These funds will be earmarked to support food pantries, homeless shelters, health clinics and will provide jobs training for New Yorkers in need throughout the five boroughs...

[2] Comments
Toward the end of Sting's 60th birthday bash at New York's Beacon Theater last night, Bruce Springsteen took a moment from his set to joke about his friend. "I've known Sting for about 25 years," Springsteen said. "But our friendship is a little unusual, because every time I read about Sting in a magazine, I don't recognize him. I've read, 'Sting can make love for 29 hours.' I wonder why he never mentioned that to me. After four hours now, you're supposed to seek medical attention … Anyway, stay hard brother, stay hard..."

[4] Comments
Sting’s 60th birthday party at the Beacon Theater was a four hour celebration of the rock star’s career and songs with his own band and almost a dozen famous musicians performing his music. They included Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock, Lady Gaga. Branford Marsalis, will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, Chris Botti, Jimmy Nail, and Met Opera star Bryn Terfel. The latter opened the second act of the show with a rendition of “Roxanne” certain to become part of pop history-it was hilarious and serious at the same time, and showed how Sting’s punkiest new wave music has resonance in many forms...
Happy Birthday Sting! Today is the final day of the countdown...thank you to everyone who participated! In keeping with longstanding tradition of always being on stage to celebrate his birthday, Sting put on a stellar show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC last night. Joined by special guest performers Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Will.i.am, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, Robert Downey Jr., Rufus Wainwright, Joe Sumner, and Branford Marsalis, the charitable concert raised millions for the Robin Hood Foundation.