Sting plays intimate gig for 600 people at Harton Technology College in South Shields...
March 01, 2015 
From singing to 13,000 people in Dubai to a night playing in a North East school hall - superstar Sting said he was, in fact, more nervous to perform to a home crowd.

The multi-Grammy award-winning singer arrived in South Shields on Saturday night from the Middle East to perform songs from his musical The Last Ship, as well as old favourites from his years in The Police.

Talking frankly about his childhood growing up near the River Tyne in Wallsend and the impact the region has had on his music, he was joined on stage by former South Shields MP David Miliband, who was hosting the event as part of his annual lecture series.

The venue at Harton Technology College at Lisle Road, South Shields, was packed with several hundred music fans from the NE33 and NE34 postcodes who had all been given free tickets to watch him perform.

"I feel rather nervous to come home and sing for you," he said after playing an acoustic version of The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance. "Last night I was in Dubai singing for 13,000 people and I didn't bat an eyelid but speaking to your own community and your own people is a tough one, and I say that with the greatest respect, it's hard to come home and be a superstar.

"They just say to me 'your dad used to deliver my milk!'. You can't fool a Geordie!"

Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, left the North East over 30 years ago and now lives in New York with his wife Trudie Styler, who was also in the front row of the school hall last night.

David Miliband, whose annual South Shields' lecture last year attracted the playwright Alan Bennet, said it was in fact his musician wife Louise Shackelton who suggested he try and get Sting to come and take part in the 2015 event. Mr Miliband, who is now head of the International Rescue Committee and also lives in New York, said: "I got his email address and within 24 hours he said he would do it.

"He said the obvious place to come after Perth and Dubai is South Shields! "Once you have sold 100m records and won Grammy awards, the next big test is 'can you make it in front of 600 in South Tyneside?'!"

Clearly humbled by performing such an intimate gig to people on home turf, the Roxanne singer explained how The Last Ship had helped him get over a long period of writer's block.

Songs from the musical, which finished its run on Broadway in January after only four months, will be performed by Sting and fellow musicians at the Sage, Gateshead, in April.

Sting said: "Until 2004, the very thing that I built my life on, matching rhyming couplets with melody, for some reason, the juice just went out of me.

"I wasn't idle, I did a lot of touring, but I would sit with a blank page in front of me. After a couple of years I had very little to show in terms of my efforts.

"It was worrying - as if the gift of song writing could be taken as easily away from me as it could be bestowed."

But when he started to write about home, he said songs for The Last Ship flowed and he soon had 40 new pieces of music.

While the show only enjoyed a short run in America, he said he hopes it can be shown again in various forms in the UK, and said he would one day like to bring a play to Newcastle.

After fielding questions from the audience, he was asked by one lady if he would play them Roxanne, which he dutifully did, before moving on to the 1979 hit Message in a Bottle.

After a standing ovation and screams of approval, Sting was whisked away by Mr Miliband to his favourite South Shields chippie - Colman's on Ocean Road - for a true taste of home.

(c) The Chronicle by Kate Proctor

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