Blast from the past...
I just got back home...
First of all, thank you so much to Sting and Tina, Dave, and Wendy. Flawless execution, from the emails to check in, and finally to the performance itself. I consider myself as one of the lucky ones to see and hear this rare look into the shared passions of two ''pop'' singers, linked across the centuries by lines, lyrics, and lutes...
Picture Sting and Mr Karamazov in front of a huge glass backdrop overlooking Columbus Circle, 59th Street, and Central Park. The Allen Hall is only about three years old, and with the hustle and bustle of The City quietly on display in the background, it was spectacular.
Sting was indeed in a great mood, and if he was nervous, as he said he was, he hid it well - behind some great one-liners. The sound quality was very good, and all 400 audience members had a great seat. I sat near Sandy from NY, a lovely lady from Chicago, and Stephanie from NY as well, whom I had met at the Irving Plaza show last year.
I thought I knew what to expect, as I'd heard some of the songs online, but hearing them live added extra dimension - because Sting enhanced each song by reading excerpts from John Dowland's letters, and explained the tenor of the times in which they were written. That deepened my appreciation of the music considerably. I could also understand how Sting was once at the head of a classroom: he was teaching us about Elizabethan music, while being respectful of the work and the artist as well.
I saw the Police at Shea Stadium in 1983, and saw every concert tour since except the Blue Turtles, so I know Sting's body of work. And this, to be sure, is not Sting's music.
But the night was truly a Sting night. Growing. Taking risks. Zagging when everyone else is zigging. He's always done this. Like when he branched out and did Brecht's ''Three Penny Opera.'' Or Jobim's music. Or Prokofiev's. Or Gershwin's. This wasn't about pop music. This night was about appreciation of music. Music that's classical. Music that's hard to play. Music about which I knew very little.
Not anymore. And I think that's the point.
I got the distinct feeling that Mr. Dowland was the original ''King of Pain'' based on his beautiful melodies and introspectful, melancholy lyrics. That may be what attracts Sting to his music...and why he felt compelled to share it with us.
''Come Again'' was my favorite song of the night. It has a courtly passion to it, and Sting really enjoyed singing it. ''To see...to touch...to kiss... to die...with thee again...'' In Elizabethan England, the phrase ''to die'' was a euphemism for orgasm. Title pun? Perhaps that's why Sting had that smile on his face. Who said Dowland wasn't clever?
Sting also had a chorale group supporting some of the songs with rich harmonies. And at the end, he also performed reinterpreted versions of ''Fields of Gold,'' ''Message in a Bottle,'' and a blues song by Robert Johnson. With Trudie looking on, ''Fields of Gold'' never sounded more beautiful - when accompanied by both lutes. Many in the crowd were moved to tears on that one - I have to admit, I got a little misty eyed... never heard Sting put more feeling into this song than tonight...
And when he mentioned ''6 billion castaways'' during ''Message in a Bottle,'' you could look out over his shoulder to see the throngs of city dwellers, heading home or in cabs or out walking or wherever, and that lyric took on additional significance with this live ''metaphor.''
The party afterward was right downstairs in the Stone Rose, another great venue/bar with an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. This is where I had the good fortune of shaking hands with Sting. I say shaking because I was nervous. I hadn't met him before. As you'd expect, he was polite and friendly. To borrow from Seinfeld: ''Good shake. Perfect shake. Single pump, not too hard, doesn't have to prove anything, but firm enough to know he was there.''
The two words that come to mind about this moment are ''humility'' and ''royalty.'' Because when Sting suddenly has his attention focused on you, I found it was really humbling. I also felt a certain feeling of royalty: he has a regal air about him, a kingly quality I can't quite put my finger on. Those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting him might know what I mean...it's hard to explain.
Finally, I did get to introduce myself to Trudie, and Mr. Karamazov. Trudie is regal as well, though every bit as beautiful in person - even more so, actually. I left the party right after the staff at the restaurant brought out a big cake, while everyone sang ''Happy Birthday'' to Sting. He almost blew out all the candles in one breath...
I hope I captured the night for you. I know it's one I'll appreciate for a long, long time.
Again, kudos to Tina, Dave and Wendy. And most of all, thank you to Sting. I had an absolute blast.
And yes, I will be buying the album tomorrow.
(c) fondly, Tom for Sting.com
XM Artist Confidential Review...
I touched down at JFK around 3:45PM, hoping to make a quick exit. It took a while to get my luggage, did not leave the airport till 5:00 PM, only to hit standstill traffic as soon as I got onto Hwy 678 in the peak of rush hour. I swore I was gonna miss the 6:15 PM deadline, was ready to call Delta to put me on a late flight back to California that same evening.
Having been in New York many times before visiting family, I knew a few short cuts, but in the end, it was 678 to 495 then through the midtown tunnel. I arrived at XM at 6:10 PM, got my badge, and proceeded to the upscale, well dressed event with some obviously very important people around me.
First sign that it was gonna be a good night was the free booze that was being offered, I immediately filled my hand with a glass of chardonnay.
After meeting some very pleasant and beautiful fans from the fan club, they were ready for an on time start. The hall had an incredible backdrop of Manhattan, 60th St down the middle, Central Park on the left.
We sat through an interesting interview session. Sting throwing in his subtle jabs at world leaders needing to reflect on their actions when referring to the melancholy in Dowland's music.
Then the music starts, Sting unplugged. I could never imaging myself in Sting's shoes, a man of his stature, sitting in front an intimidating audience, mainly press, no bass guitar, no drums, no keyboards, no Dominic, basically, no safety net, just vocal and lute, singing some very difficult material. Sting handled it brilliantly, his singing on key and hitting every note, very controlled and superbly executed. Not many established artists would survive that. I especially enjoyed at the end when they redid a song, Sting asked Edin to play the note he's is singing in, Sting was like, it's really ''B'', Sting responded ''play the chord'', and there it was ''B'', Sting sighed then said OK, and began singing in the key of B (maybe not his comfort zone), true genius. My favorite part of the performance was the reinterpretation of Fields of Gold on lute, just beautiful. Also, that Blues song Sting played near the end, sort of reminded me of the bassline from U2's desire, is that where they stole it from?
Sting's take on Dowland's songs are beautiful, I especially like ''Fine knacks for ladies'' and ''Come again'', but some of the songs are a bit too dark for me, especially with the life changing transition I am now experiencing. Songs like ''In the darkness, let me dwell'', sorry, not now, in fact, if anyone can listen to ''IDLMD'' outside of a funeral, big respect to you. Anyway, still, beautiful stuff from Sting and kudos to him for succeeding at another challenge. Yet, here is my conspiracy theory, of course this project is legit, but it's also the perfect anecdote for his rock/pop album hopefully to be released next year, no reporter could charge him with ''selling out'' anymore, especially after a project like this, at the same time, he is able to absorb himself in the music of Dowland, maybe an inspiration to write new music made for guitars. Some see the lack of keyboards as a step back but some of the most powerful music in history has been guitar driven, if the song is powerful enough, it would survive without plugged instruments. It is my hope that this project inspires Sting to write and then release a brilliant solo album in 2007. I feel something special is around the corner.
So what else was special? How about Trini dining with some beautiful women from the fan club, what more can I ask for? I am not naming names because I am afraid I might leave someone out, it was indeed a pleasure meeting all the fan club members before the show, during the show and dining with members after the show, fans from all over the North America, Sting is lucky to have such incredible fans supporting him. In the end, it was a wonderful night and special thank you to Sting.com for making it all possible.
(c) Trini/Pangea for Sting.com
XM Hosts Sting for First North American Performance in Support of 'Songs From the Labyrinth'
XM, the nation's leading satellite radio service with more than 7 million subscribers, will debut the latest installment of ''Artist Confidential,'' its popular performance and interview series, featuring legendary music artist Sting on Monday, October 16. Taped before a live audience of friends and fans at XM's New York studios in Jazz @ Lincoln Center, Sting's XM performance served as his first North American performance in support of his latest album, 'Songs From the Labyrinth', a collection of Elizabethan-era tunes from the works of John Dowland performed on the lute.
Accompanied by the 12-person choir, ''Tapestry,'' and Sarajevo-born lutenist Edin Karamazov, the hour-plus long XM Artist Confidential performance included works from the new album, which was released on Tuesday. In addition, the evening's set list included Sting playing a few songs not traditionally performed on the lute - his 1993 hit 'Fields of Gold', legendary bluesman Robert Johnson's 'Hell Hound on My Trail', and The Police's 'Message in a Bottle'.