Sting records Top of The Pops 2 Special...
On 2 November, Sting recorded an hour long Top Of The Pops Special at the BBC Television Centre in London, in front of a wildly enthusiastic fan club audience. These TOTP specials are something of a rarity and the domain of some of the greatest names in Pop. Sting’s performance came in the middle of a hectic period of TV and promotional work to coincide with the UK release of '...All This Time'.
"Parkinson" recorded the previous night, "CD:TV" to be recorded on the 3 November, a radio concert to be recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre on the 5 November. You get the picture. The man is tireless... Ahead of the main recording, Sting, Dominic Miller, Christian McBride and Miles Bauld retired to the Studio’s intimate bar area, where they recorded a version of 'Fragile'. This took several takes as Dominic had a few tuning problems and then there seemed to be some confusion over which arrangement of the song they were playing. Some light hearted banter later, an acceptable take was in the bag and Sting was dragged off to the bar to record some intro and continuity links.
As the recording time drew closer, the studio began to buzz with anticipation, and then Sting and the band wandered on stage to a tremendous reception. There was genuine warmth and pleasure amongst the musicians as they realised that they would be performing to an audience of real Sting fans. Sting, Dominic and Kipper shook hands as they greeted members of the audience whilst Sting found time to sign the CD covers that were handed to him. This was a new look band – Chris Botti’s spell with the band has drawn to a close (be sure to check out Chris’s great new album 'Night Sessions'), and so Guy Barker who has worked with Sting in the past was on trumpet duties alongside Clark Gayton on trombone. In the drumming seat, was the larger than life and utterly amazing Abe Laboriel Jr, Christian McBride was on double bass, and on piano, accompanying Jeff Young and Kipper, it was terrific to see Dave Hartley back sharing a stage with Sting.
Sting opened the ten song set, not with bass in hand but with a tambourine, performing 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. Dressed in a tight faded green tee-shirt, and looking more than twenty years younger than his age he worked the audience up through the song, before performing his ‘Tuscany’ version of the Police classic 'Don’t Stand So Close To Me' during which the TV backdrop’s were playing clips of past TOTP appearances by both the Police and Sting. Don’t Stand segued beautifully into his seldom performed, but much loved ballad, 1994’s 'When We Dance'. Sting fans know when they get something special, and the roar that greeted the final notes of this song was hopefully enough to convince Sting that it is time the song deserved a regular spot in future set lists.
The new funky arrangement of 'All This Time' followed. A long time favourite track, this reworked version is simply wonderful and undoubtedly one of the strongest tracks from the new album. Then followed a rousing version of 'Mad About You', the new arrangement of 'Fragile' and 'Fields Of Gold' where Dominic’s familiar guitar solo was almost drowned out by the cheers of anticipation from the audience. Introducing the wonderful new arrangement of 'Roxanne' by teasing the audience that this was "not an autobiographical song", it was hard not to marvel at how Sting has consistently reinvented this particular song, making it fresh for every tour.
At last Sting put down his tambourine and strapped on his trusty Fender P, before launching us all into a rousing, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'. It was great to see the production team and camera crew enjoying the show as much as we fans too. Wrapping up the performance, what else could possibly end the show except a raucous, sing-a-long version of 'Every Breath You Take' complete with six, yes count them, six trademark leaps. Naturally, this finale brought the house down, and the band took their bows and they left the stage as they arrived - in a torrent of handshakes.
(c) Dave & Wendy for Sting.com